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Grayfords is a leading boutique law firm based in Fitzrovia, London. Our solicitors are experts in English and International Family Law and specialise in all matters regarding divorce, marriage and child matters.
It has recently been reported that Princess Tessy of Luxembourg has launched divorce proceedings against her husband, Prince Louis. Interestingly, the Princess opted for England as her jurisdiction of choice for the proceedings even though neither Princess Tessy nor Prince Louis are British citizens. This illustrates two key points regarding divorce settlements in the courts of England and Wales. The first is that England remains a very favourable jurisdiction for divorce settlements for the stay-at-home wife or financially weaker spouse. The second is that individuals can instigate divorce proceedings in England and Wales even if they are not citizens or their marriage took place abroad.England as a “divorce capital” for the financially weaker spouse
England is often cited as the “divorce capital” of the world. A key reason behind this is because English courts hold that there should be no distinction drawn between contributions made by the breadwinner and homemaker. Legally, this means that non-financial contributions are not seen as subordinate to financial contributions in the court’s assessment of the division of assets upon divorce. The starting point for the court when considering a financial order is the principle of equality, which states that both parties should be left in a similar financial position following divorce having regard to their individual circumstances and earning capacities. Only in exceptional cases can a spouse successfully argue they have made a “special contribution” to the marriage and are deserving of a greater share of the matrimonial finances.
This approach is naturally more favourable to the financially weaker spouse whose contribution to the marriage may be that of a homemaker as opposed to the breadwinner.
This is likely behind the desire of Princess Tessy as the financially weaker spouse to undertake divorce proceedings in England, as she is likely to secure a more generous settlement here than if the case was to be heard elsewhere.
How foreign individuals can commence divorce proceedings in England and Wales
Separating couples who have connections to different countries may have a choice as to where to commence divorce proceedings. Connections can include the fact that they have lived for some or all of their married life in another country, for example England or Wales. This means that even if the parties are not British citizens or the marriage took place elsewhere, the divorce may indeed take place in England, provided jurisdictional criteria are met.
In this case, although Princess Tessy and Prince Louis are not British, Princess Tessy’s ability to claim for divorce proceedings in England is because the couple are currently based in London and are therefore domiciled here: they moved to Kensington and both their children attended a boarding school there. The domicile of either of the parties in England could give rise to a petition for divorce being successfully issued here.
However, it is important to note that the court may look at a wide range of factors in determining whether to hear the case. If proceedings could possibly take place in multiple jurisdictions, the country in which proceedings are first issued will have full jurisdiction in the entire divorce.
How Grayfords can help
What the above highlights is how choosing a jurisdiction for divorce can have potentially significant bearings on the final outcome of a case and that England is seen as an attractive jurisdiction for the financially weaker spouse.
Often, depending on the circumstances, much depends on the choice of the first person to issue divorce proceedings as the court becomes “seized” of jurisdiction to the exclusion of all others. Different jurisdictions often have different approaches to divorce and procedures can vary from country to country. It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible if you believe there may be a choice of jurisdiction in your case.
Grayfords, a renowned firm for international divorce, is well-positioned to advise you if there is a choice and, if so, which jurisdiction would be most favourable in your case.
The English TV producer and entrepreneur Simon Cowell has been enjoying a very successful, very happy relationship with his partner, New York socialite Lauren Silverman, since 2013. The two announced they were together after Silverman’s pregnancy came to light, and now have a 3-year-old son, Eric, together. There’s no sign that the two are planning on splitting up any time soon – in fact there’s rumours that this might finally be the year in which Simon proposes. But what would happen if the two decided to go their own ways for whatever reason?
Simon’s dating history shows that it would probably be an amicable split. He has a tendency to remain friendly with his ex-partners, which bodes well for him and Lauren. One of Simon’s exes, TV presenter Terri Seymour, has been seen vacationing this summer together with the happy couple at Los Cabos, Mexico, and he’s still very close to another one of his old partners, singer Sinitta. He’s even managed to remain close to his ex-fiancée Mezhgan Hussainy, whom he was engaged to until 2011. But even during an amicable split, especially one where there is a child’s welfare at play, there are bound to be problems to solve.
A ring can make all the difference
Simon and Lauren are not married, but simply cohabiting. Unfortunately, the law in England and Wales does not recognise couples living together as a legal partnership, and this means that cohabiting couples have very limited rights should they ever break up. Equally, legislation in New York doesn’t allow for common law marriage, regardless of the number of years a couple has resided together and regardless of whether they consider each other as husband and wife.
However, there are ways to protect yourself before the worst happens. A cohabitation agreement is a document signed by both partners which sets out provisions for what should happen to the financial assets, children, and property should the relationship ever break down. This can protect each partner from lengthy legal disagreements, and it gives each partner rights and responsibilities that they wouldn’t otherwise have unless they were married. In particular, cohabitation agreements can be particularly important to settle financial matters, and as such could be fundamental in a relationship of such high visibility such as that between Simon and Lauren. If you’re thinking of moving in together, our solicitors can help you draft a cohabitation agreement that fits your relationship and your needs, and help you plan ahead for yours and your children’s future.
Thinking of the children
Due to the lack of matrimonial assets to split, the welfare of their child, Eric, would probably be the most complex issue to deal with in case of a break-down of the relationship. Ideally, child matters would be solved out of court, through mediation if the couple is unable to come to a compromise independently. However, should no agreement be reached, courts do have the right to decide on parental responsibility, residency, and child contact arrangements even if the couple was not married. The judge will have the children’s welfare in mind while making a decision. First of all, the judge will listen to the wishes of any children old enough to express their preference, although in Eric’s case this is not really possible. The court will also take into account who the primary caretaker of the children has been in the past, the financial situation of the parents, and who can provide the most stability for the child in relation to their emotional and educational needs.
Currently, Eric mostly spends his time with his mother in New York while Simon Cowell is busy with his TV shows. Here, he is also in touch with his older half-brother Adam, which Lauren had from her ex-husband. Because of the desire to prevent an upheaval in the children’s place of residence, and because of Simon’s busy professional life which would impede him from devoting his attention to him, Eric would probably remain with his mother. Moreover, even if they were never married, having a child together may entitle Lauren to make a financial claim against Simon, in order to help her with economic matters concerning Eric’s upbringing. While that would have a small impact on Cowell’s financial situation, the courts would also consider the fact that Lauren herself has a high net worth, and it would be unlikely that she should need monetary assistance in raising Eric. However, the couple is currently going strong, and there are no whispers of any break-up in the near future, so hopefully they won’t have to worry about these matters any time soon.
In a recent statement, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, has heavily criticised the “lamentable” state of divorce proceedings in England and Wales. This is particularly on the basis that the majority of the time spent on divorce proceedings is not to do with the divorce itself, but rather on achieving a financial settlement between the parties. This week we explore these claims in the context of divorce law in England and Wales to understand whether divorce proceedings can truly be separated from ‘money battles’.
Overview of Sir James Munby’s comments
In his recent commentary on the state of the family courts, Sir James Munby highlighted that the financial aspect of divorce is often not the primary factor in how proceedings come about. It is, therefore, illogical that the English system has developed in a way where the financial aspect of divorce plays such a leading role when parties bring a claim to the courts. Such statements aren’t unjustified – the English legal system’s title as the ‘divorce capital of the world’ is hugely driven by the ease with which some parties – can obtain large settlements on divorce. To a degree, the blame may be placed on the lack of ‘no-fault’ divorce in the system. This potentially adds to the hostility to the proceedings, creating an apparent outcome of a ‘winner’ and ‘loser’ which many lawyers have argued to be outdated and in need of reform.
Introducing primary legislation is perhaps not the way to deal with this, and indeed Munby presents a potential solution of online divorce proceedings as a mechanism to ‘de-link’ divorce from monetary claims. What is required, he said, is a system where there is “formally, legally and procedurally” a complete separation of divorce and money – with money claims being dealt with “in accordance with a single set of rules providing a common form of application”. But is this total separation a good way to reduce the emphasis on financial remedy in divorce proceedings?
The Other Side
One might argue in the alternative that the financial element of a divorce is tied-in to the context of each case, and as such it is impossible to truly separate the two elements. In fact, once considerations as to where children live are removed from the relationship breakdown, money is likely to be a key factor in almost every divorce. A household with two incomes, or at least two sets of resources whether they are financial or time-based, does not easily divide into two separate households, certainly not if the standard of living is to be maintained.
This being said, Munby does highlight significant reasons as to why divorce proceedings and financial settlements should be kept separate. In particular, to relieve the pressure on the Family Courts when such decisions have in the past resulted in heavy involvement of judges.
The reality is that there will always be one person who is at a disadvantage at the outcome of divorce proceedings, and the financial element is intrinsically wound up in decision of the courts in a way which cannot be easily separated. While the introduction of an online system for financial claims could potentially ring-fence what is a “largely administrative and bureaucratic” process, this is a decision which cannot be easily decided on.
Meghan Markle has been in the media spotlight since her relationship with Prince Harry was announced in autumn of 2016, and has received a whole new dimension of attention now that their engagement and wedding plans have been set (the wedding will be taking place in May 2018).
Prior to this publicity, however, she was already known to many through her role in Suits, where she plays Rachel Zane, a driven, ambitious, kind and quirky paralegal and lawyer. Prior to Suits, Ms. Markle had various performances in medical dramas and sci-fi series such as Fringe, as well as appearances in Hollywood films such as Remember Me and Horrible Bosses.
Being a successful actress in a well-received TV show would seem to be an all-consuming job, but not for Ms. Markle. She has additionally thrown herself into supporting various philanthropic causes, causes for which she started showing interest early in her life; at the young age of 11 she wrote a letter to then First Lady Hilary Clinton expressing her concern that a soap advert was suggesting women solely belonged in the kitchen. The advert was subsequently changed. Ms. Markle has continued to campaign for the change she wants to see in the world, participating in humanitarian work as part of her role as Global Ambassador at World Vision Canada, a position which included her travelling to Rwanda as part of their Clean Water campaign. As part of her advocacy for gender equality and women’s rights she also gave a speech at the United Nations in 2016, which was attended by Ban-Ki Moon and for which she received a standing ovation. Ms. Markle’s philanthropy does not end there however; she is also the proud owner of two rescue puppies, one of whom will be moving to England with her (the other being too old for such a big move).
The Northwestern University graduate, whose degree saw her interning at the Brazilian Embassy to the United States, was introduced to Prince Harry through a mutual friend. Harry has reportedly stated that as soon as he met her he knew he would have to ‘step up his game’ to keep up with her intelligence and drive. Their relationship has been a reflection of both Ms. Markle and the Prince’s philanthropic endeavors, with their first trip together being to Botswana, and their first public appearance being at the Invictus Games in Toronto, an event honoring wounded veterans. Moreover, the couple’s first public appearance after announcing their engagement to the world was on World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness to the stigma of living with HIV/AIDS, educating the public on it, and helping to provide healthcare to those suffering from AIDS.
In a joint interview released after their engagement went public, both Prince Harry and Ms. Markle emphasized their wish to use their new union and platform to advocate for philanthropic causes important to them. Both Ms. Markle’s co-workers at Suits, where she starred for seven years, as well as those working with her in a charitable capacity, have stated that their pleasure in working with her, emphasized her kindness, intelligence and exemplary work ethic. Looking to the future, there is no doubt that Ms. Markle and Prince Harry will make a great team, and work together on achieving the social change they wish to see.
Popular television and the movies would have us believe that you can get married wherever you want, all you need is a couple of friends, your partner and the rings (and vows!). This is, however, not the case in England and Wales, as highlighted by a Law Commission scoping report. The report identified key problem areas regarding how marriages are conducted in England and Wales, as well as where they are able to be conducted, and recommended several changes. The Government has now responded saying that it is currently not the right time for a review of marriage law, but it has not excluded the possibility of future review – and several experts in the area, such as Baroness Butler-Sloss, have stated that they wish to keep this potential review on the government’s mind, especially to be brought up again once some closure has been found regarding Brexit.
The current laws regulating marriage can be found in the Marriage Act of 1949 and, notwithstanding a couple of amendments, such as the applicability of the Same Sex Marriage Act 2013, these provisions still largely follow the scheme created in the 1800s. Thus, it should come as no surprise that certain rules seem outdated when applied to today’s society.
There are strict formalities regarding the location in which a marriage ceremony can take place. The permissible venues for a civil marriage are the area register’s office and buildings approved by the local authority of the relevant area for the purposes of civil marriages, such as a hotel. It is also possible to have a religious marriage, which must be conducted either in a building of the Church of England (or the Church of Wales) or a place of worship certified as such and then registered for the purpose of a religious marriage. If a marriage is conducted in any other venue, it will not be a legally recognised marriage (save for a couple of rare exceptions for those where one party is terminally ill, or those marrying according to Jewish and Quaker customs).
Therefore, if a couple wishes to marry following any other religious custom, or marry in a location with special meaning to them, they may be required to hold two separate events: one to ensure their marriage is legally valid, and another to fulfill any personal wishes. Those who fail to meet these locational requirements, even where they were simply unaware of these rules, will not have a legally recognised marriage – meaning their relationship is not legally protected, they will have no legal remedies in the event of relationship breakdown, and no automatic rights regarding the other parties’ death.
If these requirements have left you feeling confused and unsure of how to plan for your wedding arrangements, one of our solicitors at Grayfords can advise you on how to ensure you have your dream marriage, but also ensure you comply with any and all legal requirements, as well as answer any other questions you may have pre-marriage regarding a prenup or any other property assets and children involved. Moreover, if you think that your marriage may not be legally recognised, we can explain the legal options you now have to rectify this, as well as help in the event of relationship breakdown.
Comedian and actor Kevin Hart is better known for his quick wit and comedic honesty. However, we also know that he is no stranger to the harsh reality of divorce and its impact on familial structures. This week we shine a spotlight on how Kevin Hart’s highs and lows give us an insight into the difficultly divorce presents in assimilating new families with old.
Kevin Hart’s career sky-rocketed from early 2010 in the form of critically acclaimed stand-up shows and a series of prominent Hollywood blockbusters. But alongside his career there were several marital breakdowns. In 2011, Kevin and the mother of his two children, Torrei Hart finalised their divorce in what was a tumultuous first marriage, citing irreconcilable differences.
While the couple did eventually reach an agreement for joint custody, a number of ongoing disputes regarding Hart’s extramarital affairs have continually risen to the attention of the media. The added pressure of the media, no doubt added to the difficulty of raising children in a divorced household. Although, it is clear that while Hart and his former wife have in the past been unable to reconcile their differences, they have worked hard to not allow their own personal differences to impair on their joint upbringing of their son and daughter. The pair have often been spotted with their children celebrating events and taking precious time to be together as a family, a marked difference from their difficult separation years before.
Divorce and new families
This being said, an added layer of complexity to the breakdown of a marriage is the beginning of new relationships and their impact on a previously established family unit. Hart married his long-term girlfriend Eniko Parrish in 2014 and the pair welcomed their first child on 21st November this year. However, Hart’s new relationship has already been the subject of several media mishaps. Torrei’s accusations in August that Hart and his new wife were having an affair during their marriage and the most recent blackmail allegations against Hart for a video where he was spotted with another woman have once more placed an added strain on relationships with his former spouse and expanding family.
Looking to the future
Things do however appear to be looking up in the Hart family – Torrei has made it clear in recent comments to US Weekly that she is glad that her children will share a new sibling and extend their family. Hart’s familial situation is undoubtedly far more complicated with the added layer of media attention, but if his situation teaches us anything, it is this: there is evidently a difficult balancing act between ensuring any acrimony between former spouses does not detrimentally impact children and moving on to strengthening new bonds.
Having celebrated their coral wedding anniversary this year, some would say Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne’s marriage is one of showbiz’s greatest miracles. The couple first began dating in the late 70’s and soon tied the knot, shortly having three children: Aimee, Kelly and Jack. However, the iconic British couple have seen many a turbulent time throughout their marriage.
In 1989, under the influence of alcohol, Ozzy attempted to strangle his wife, an incident he had no recollection of and has since described as his most shameful moment. Sharon dropped the case and rather than an attempted murder charge, Ozzy underwent a court ordered separation along with three months in rehab. So, how did the coupled overcome this and what’s the secret behind their 35 years of marriage?
Whilst Ozzy has joked that it’s to avoid being “caught with your mistress”, the former Black Sabbath frontman says it is down to the undying love they have for each other; both declaring the other as being the love of their lives. However, it is not only this strong connection which has played a role in maintaining their marriage but the longevity and continuity of their marriage is down to a theme of perseverance which is woven through the fabric of their relationship. Whilst it is easy to assume marriage is full of ‘ups’, there are inevitably some ‘downs’, demonstrating the reality behind a long and, ultimately, successful marriage is that it is a marathon and not a sprint, which provides learning and requires development and growth.
Overcoming such challenges has allowed for success. In 2002, for example, the first season of their hit reality TV show The Osbournes became the most-viewed MTV series ever. This contributed to the couples’ combined vast wealth of £100m (which has since more than doubled), with Sharon listed in the top 50 richest British women in the Sunday Times Rich List the same year. However, during this same period Sharon was diagnosed with colon cancer, a diagnosis which unsurprisingly hit the family hard.
In 2016, Sharon’s challenges continued when she uncovered Ozzy’s affair with hairdresser Michelle Pugh, with many being forgiven for believing it surely had to be the final straw of their marriage. However, yet again, despite Sharon feeling “humiliated and belittled” by the affair, the Osbourne marriage continued its theme of showing a concrete resilience. This time, on the basis that Ozzy underwent intense sex therapy. After Ozzy’s therapy, the coupled sought to start afresh, symbolised through a renewing of their wedding vows with Sharon commenting that “Ozzy and I are interwoven”, and Ozzy describing the renewal ceremony as marking “a new beginning”.
Instead of seeing their hardships in life as negatives, Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne have channelled them in a commendable way, by devoting their time and resources to countless charities and organisations. For example, Sharon Osbourne has set up the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program, supported by her husband and more recently, also made a £10,000 donation to Children in Need. This commitment to important causes is also evident in Ozzy, who donated £10,000 to a US children’s musical organisation for their rendition of ‘Crazy Train’ as well as requesting that any birthday donations to be given to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.
What the above shows is a story of challenges and setbacks, but one where the participants have refused to give up. For example, despite significant issues in their marriage, the much-loved couple have used treatment, rehab and therapy to help preserve their marriage, and by doing so, exemplified how there is no “one size fits all” approach to maintaining a marriage; divorce and separation are not the only options and approaching issues in different ways can help couples work through their problems and even improve their marriages. Indeed, as Ozzy found, his marriage is now “1,000 percent better” than it has been in the past.
Grayfords is renowned for its holistic service, Beyond Law. Beyond Law takes a unique approach, the resources and experience and is therefore able to help couples work through their differences in numerous ways, such as through couple’s therapy and relationship coaching.
On 10th October 2017, Michael and Kai Korok became the first gay couple to legally adopt a child in Germany just nine days after same-sex marriage became legal.
The couple got married on October 2nd, the day after same-sex marriage became legal in Germany. As part of the legalisation of same-sex marriage, gay couples were also given identical adoption rights and marital rights as their heterosexual equivalents.
The Koroks had been foster parents to their son since his birth and applied to officially adopt him after their marriage. Their application was approved by a court in Berlin’s Kreutzer district with Michael Korok hailing the introduction of identical adoption rights as heterosexual couples as a ‘huge win’ for same-sex couples in Germany.
Introduction of identical adoption rights
Germany has been notably behind its European counterparts in the fight to recognise the right to marriage of same-same couples – the legalisation of same-sex marriage occurred in France in 2013 and the United Kingdom in 2014.
In July 2017, a bill for the legalisation of same-sex marriage passed in the Bundesrat after a change in position by Chancellor Angela Markel. The catalyst for same-sex marriage arose from Merkel’s call for conservative MPs to vote in accordance with their conscience after she met a loving same-sex couple who had cared for eight foster children in her constituency of Stralsund – Nordvorpommern – Rügen.
When the bill was signed into law Germany became the 14th European country and 23rd worldwide to legalise same-sex marriage. Whilst Merkel voted against the bill, she is believed to fully support the introduction of adoption rights for same-sex couples claiming this would bring about ‘social cohesion and peace’.
After the legalisation of same-sex marriages, Constanze Körner from Lesben-und Schwulenverband (LSVD), an LGBT rights group in Germany commented that the introduction of adoption rights has significantly addressed the imbalance of power between various family structures. The LSVD asserted this was instrumental proof that “‘marriage for all’ is not just symbolic.”
Nepal has for the first known time approved a wedding involving a transgender person by issuing a marriage certificate to Monika Shahi Nath and Ramesh Nath Yogi.
Monika Shahi Nath, born as a boy in rural Nepal, says she always knew she was different, but was afraid to reveal her true gender identity to her family. Coming home from her wedding with her husband, wearing a red dress and wedding ring, it was one of the first times she had been herself around her family. Monika now says that her family has accepted her identity, as have her new in-laws.
In 2015, Monika also became the first Nepali to have an ‘O’ for ‘other’ in her passport as her gender designation. While she has been able to take these steps towards living as the gender she identifies as, Monika states that the majority of transgender persons in Nepal are still living in the shadows of society, unaccepted by their communities and families. While Nepal is one of the more progressive countries in South Asia regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and has enshrined some of the rights of such minorities, as evidenced by the issuing of a third gender option on passports, it has yet to address same sex or transgender marriage in its laws. This puts third gender marriages in an uncertain legal position. As Deepak Kafle, a Home Ministry spokesperson in Nepal pointed out: ‘[the] validity of the same-sex or third-sex marriage can be questioned even after marriage registration if it is against the existing laws’. Legal analysts have also pointed out that Monika and Ramesh’s marriage may be invalidated for reasons unrelated to Monika’s gender identity as Ramesh is already married.
For now, however, Monika and Ramesh are happy to have found acceptance within their families and communities. Monika will continue to be an activist, and call for further change in the status of LGBT individuals in Nepal.
While present discussions on Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU) have primarily focused upon trade and the rights of EU citizens in the UK, they will also affect more everyday aspects of law, including family law. This week we explore how Brexit is likely to change the future of family law and whether there is anything that should cause concern for professionals and families alike.
With the unravelling of the intricacies of Brexit, there is a growing uncertainty and tension surrounding how it will affect the international landscape of family disputes and, in particular, the future of family law in the UK. Recently, the UK Government published a future partnership paper entitled ‘Providing a Cross-Border Civil Judicial Cooperation Framework’, recognising the increasingly likelihood of cross-border family disputes.
Firstly, this paper emphasises the Brussels lla Regulation (2201/2003) is likely to become a neglected instrument after the implementation of Brexit. This regulation concerns the jurisdictional rules regarding parental obligations and the jurisdiction of matrimonial matters. In addition, there are several EU instruments regulating mediation and maintenance orders.
The role of the Brussels Regulation II is to ensure that decisions made in one member state can be easily applied in another. For instance, the Regulation specifies a decision on a matrimonial manner made in one member state must be accepted in other states without any need for additional procedures. Consequently, this regulation and other EU instruments have provided confidence and impartiality in the dynamic landscape of family disputes.
What will govern the future of family disputes?
The legal sector has already reported a sharp rise in the increase of clients that are concerned with the future of their family dynamic after Brexit. Despite this growing uncertainty, there are several treaties that will still apply to the UK, including the Hague Convention 1980 (on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction). The Convention supports the return of abducted children, maintaining the protection of children. In addition, the Convention encourages cooperation and respect between signatory parties to promote the safeguarding of children.
There are a number of other agreements like the Hague Convention that will continue to be effective. The government has acknowledged the necessity to obtain an all-encompassing cross-border civil judicial cooperation on a mutual foundation. In theory, the government intends to continue the same standard of cooperation presently provided by the Brussels lla Regulation.
What should we learn from this?
There is a clear need for a strong cross-border judicial cooperation governing the international stage to avoid unnecessary uncertainty for families. Whilst details are slowly emerging on how the government aims to provide a stable background for international cooperation, we should hope that this does not come too late for the families within the EU and in the UK post-Brexit.