By Gillian Crandles

Divorcing spouses will normally have their divorce dealt with in the jurisdiction where they are habitually resident. 

Sometimes, however, more than one country can have jurisdiction and then there can be a race to issue proceedings wherever may be more favourable to one side or the other.

From the facts of the case, it seems that Mr Villiers won that battle. 

The divorce proceedings here would ordinarily deal with all of the financial consequences of the marriage, including the division of capital and ongoing payments of support.

Mrs Villiers seems to have managed to persuade the English court to deal with maintenance notwithstanding that the Scottish courts were dealing with the divorce. 

There are key differences highlighted between the two jurisdictions. 

In Scotland, Mr Villiers wouldn’t have to pay his wife’s legal costs on an ongoing basis – only at the end of the case  and only in reasonably unusual circumstances.  He would almost certainly not be expected to support his wife for life.  Ordinarily, the courts wouldn’t look behind a trust as is sought in this case, although funds held in trust for the benefit of one of the parties might be taken into account when considering their resources Inherited wealth wouldn’t be taken into account. Only “matrimonial property” is divided between the parties on divorce.

Company assets wouldn’t be taken into account just because it was “family controlled”, although if shares in a company were matrimonial property the value of those shares would be taken into account and shared fairly between the parties.  

If Mr Villiers loses his appeal there may indeed be a stampede to raise divorce and/or maintenance proceedings in whatever jurisdiction may suit each party’s circumstances, although more and more couples are now choosing to deal with their divorce in less contentious ways.

If compromise simply cannot be reached, arbitration can be an attractive alternative.

Gillian Crandles, Partner & Head of Family Law, at leading divorce lawyer, Turcan Connell.