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The Financial Times

20 January 2013

Wealthy divorcees watch Prest test case

By Jane Croft, Law Courts Correspondent

The ex-wife of a wealthy oil executive is heading to the UK’s highest court to challenge a ruling that lawyers have said could help wealthy people who want to wriggle out of paying large divorce settlements to their former spouses.

The case involves a long-running dispute between Yasmin and Michael Prest, and three companies owned by Mr Prest.

It centres on whether the companies can be ordered to transfer millions of pounds of property assets owned by the companies to Mrs Prest as part of the settlement.

Last year, the High Court ordered Mr Prest to pay £17.5m to Mrs Prest but decided he was unlikely to comply and ordered that a number of properties held in the names of companies he owned and controlled should be transferred to Mrs Prest as part of the payment.

The companies successfully fought this decision in the Court of Appeal on the basis that the property assets in question belonged to the companies, which were separate legal entities, and not to Mr Prest....................

Marilyn Stowe, a divorce lawyer, said that in the past the family courts had taken a more practical view of who owned the assets in relation to divorce settlements. This is especially where companies were wholly owned and controlled by one spouse and were used during the marriage as vehicles for the family’s lifestyle.

“The family courts have tended to be more pragmatic than in commercial cases,” she said..................

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