Thursday, February 22, 2018

Divorce Needs - I need £58,000 for shoes!

Is anyone old enough to remember Imelda Marcos's shoe collection? A thousand pairs have gone mouldy now apparently. This case also reminded me of Heather Mills seeking a helicopter and a billionaire lifestyle from her divorce from Sir Paul McCartney. She did not succeed in establishing her claim and left the marriage with a paltry £24 million.  But what of Ms Estrada?
Christina Estrada, a US citizen and former Pirelli Calendar model, was married to billionaire Saudi shiekh Dr Walid Juffali in September 2001. Dr Juffali being a Saudi national.
The 12-year marriage collapsed in 2012 when Dr Juffali married a Lebanese television presenter 32 years his junior whilst still married to Miss Estrada; a union which is allowed under Islamic law.
Miss Estrada drew ridicule for her demands. She initially sought £196.5 million, including £116,000 a year for handbags, £46,000 a year for Wimbledon and Ascot tickets and £1 million a year for clothes, including £40,000 for fur coats and £83,000 for cocktail dresses.
In a judgment on July 8 2016, Mrs Justice Roberts gave Dr Juffali three weeks to pay a settlement worth just over £75 million, including a £140,000 Lamborghini. This should be measured against the 54 year old former models demands for a settlement of some £196 million as reported in the Daily Mail
This was the largest "needs award" ever made by an English court although larger payouts have been made. In 2011 Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky agreed to pay some £385 million as part of an even larger settlement. Some 3 years later, Sir Chris Hohn was ordered to pay his ex wife some £337 million in their divorce.
These are clearly awards beyond the imagination of most people. The question though is really one of jurisdiction. Why are our courts attracting these kind of cases? Is the legislation that we offer reasonable compare to those offered in other countries? It is possible make an application in England even after a different jurisdiction has made a financial ruling. This, if it can be shown that such award was unfair.  We have a more generous approach to financial provision in big money cases, the yardstick of equality being the starting position. Gone are the days of a millionaire's defence... no disclosure required as the husband was confident he had adequate resources to meet the wife's reasonable needs  as assessed by the court.
There are two interesting and perhaps unique characteristics of English Family Law:
1. There is no statute of limitations - so a claim can be made decades after divorce...
2. The yardstick of equality is the starting position and the cornerstone of each judgement is  judicial discretion.
Ms Estrada described her lifestyle during the marriage as magical... and she looks pretty ecstatic in thephotos walking out of court with a cool £75 million...
However, her ex husband died 9 days before he was due to make the ordered payment and Ms Estrada is now involved in further litigation to secure the payout... some say she will never get any money out of Saudi Arabia... interesting twist to a magical tale...

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