Money to spend
The parties in Potanin v Potanina* were Russian nationals. They married in 1983, separated in 2007 and were divorced in Russia in 2014. They have three children together. While it was not always so, they were described by the judge as "massively rich" with a lavish lifestyle and assets which the wife asserted to be $20 billion.
Following complex and lengthy proceedings in Russia, referred to seasonally in the judgment as a "blizzard of litigation", Mrs Potanina sought permission to bring a claim in England under Part III Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 ("Part III"). This legislation permits certain individuals who have divorced abroad, to bring a claim in the English Courts for financial remedies where they have suffered hardship by reason of the foreign divorce.
Mrs Potanina's case, which some may find distasteful, was that the award she had received in Russia (between $40 – 80 million) did not meet her reasonable needs and that she should have been awarded half of the matrimonial assets which she asserted were in the region of $6 billion. This is an outcome which might have been possible had the case been heard here. The wife was, however, unsuccessful.
Divorced abroad? There are still deals to found in England….
Those advising internationally mobile clients of significant means need to be aware of Part III claims and the ability for ex-spouses to bring claims in this jurisdiction where they believe they have suffered financially as a consequence of an overseas divorce.
To bring a claim in this jurisdiction for financial relief after an overseas divorce, the applicant must show that:
- Either of the parties was domiciled in England and Wales on the date of the application or was so domiciled on the date on which the divorce took effect; or
- Either of the parties to the marriage was habitually resident in England and Wales throughout the period of one year ending with the date of the application for permission or was so resident throughout the period of one year ending with the date on which the divorce took effect; or
- Either or both of the parties to the marriage had, at the date of the application for permission, a beneficial interest in a possession in a dwelling-house situated in England or Wales that was at some time during the marriage a matrimonial home of the parties to the marriage.
Those seeking to bring a Part III claim must first obtain leave from the Court. Leave should not be granted leave unless the Court considers that there is substantial ground for making such an application. The case provides a helpful reminder of four key elements judges need to consider:
1. The extent of the parties' connection to England;
2. Whether or not the applicant is ...