Hong Kong house husband in £11m divorce clash

Divorce|News|January 30th 2014

The wife of a former banker who gave up his career to look after the children has appealed a ruling that he is habitually resident in England.

Weng Choy, from Hong Kong, filed for divorce in January 2012  after he and his wife had “a blazing row” on New Year’s Eve.

He is seeking a share of the couple’s substantial assets – estimated to be more than £11 million, including homes in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Kensington. But his wife, investment banker Lena Tan, claims the English courts have no jurisdiction in the case.

The couple were married for 15 years and their two sons attended English boarding schools.

Tan, a hedge fund manager who has worked in the City of London, countered her husband’s filing with her own divorce application in Malaysia, and asked the English courts to halt her husband’s divorce claim.

However, the High Court declared in March last year that Mr Choy had been habitually resident (resident  for legal purposes) in England for a year before making his application for divorce, so the courts did have the power to hear his case. According to a report in the Mail, more than half the couple’s wealth is invested in the UK.

His wife appealed. Earlier this week, her legal team claimed in the Court of Appeal that the couple’s true home had been Hong Kong, in spite of their London flat.

James Turner QC said:

“Married family life between the parties continued to some degree at least,  and had Hong Kong as its centre, until a row took place between the parties during the Christmas 2011, New Year 2012 period, following which the husband came to England.”

But Tim Bishop QC, for the husband, said Mr Choy had been based in London since an earlier row with his wife in London in September 2010. He noted that Mr Choy had obtained a British driving licence and national insurance number.

The Court of Appeal reserved its judgement until a later date.

Author: Stowe Family Law

Comments(19)

  1. Luke says:

    Obviously he should get residency and child support and some financial settlement to be reasonably comfortable – but wherever this is decided he should only get a minor percentage settlement because he hasn’t earned the money – and if they are at boarding school now he shouldn’t get spousal maintenance at all.

  2. Sandra says:

    Maintenance is paid to the spouses also not only if there are children. Luke is wrong! The husband spent years investing in the family, why shouldn’t he get something more in return? The children will spend time equally between the parents. Who is going to hire the husband now that he is older and out of work force for so many years?

  3. Luke says:

    I’m wrong if you believe in an entitlement and dependency culture – I’m right if you don’t – simple as that.

  4. Sandra says:

    I believe in what the law states. Law is not based on individual belief, as and when it fits! This is why law is made by the Parliament and Courts must apply it equally to all. I am not here to change the law as this is up to the Parliament, not down to my belief.
    Let’s see what tomorrow Judgment will bring.

  5. Luke says:

    “I believe in what the law states.”
    ========================

    It is not a matter in believing in what the law states because it is how it is interpreted by the courts that is what actually counts, and that is not at all unchangeable as we have seen.

    I have said that I am not favour of an entitlement and dependency culture – the UK currently takes that idea to it’s extreme – which is why it is known as “The divorce capital of the world”.

  6. Sandra says:

    You are saying that a male partner in a relationship should not get a good settlement “because he hasn’t earned the money”. So, he raised the family as a favour to the wife on a volunteering bases? There is no notion of contribution to the family? The law accepts that parties in a marriage contribute differently but equally when dividing the matrimonial assets. UK is indeed the “Divorce capital of the world” and this is played very well by those who plan a divorce, gold diggers?, and take advantage to portray themselves first and become a victim first before the other partner wakes up to realise there was indeed an agenda on them. Yes, here the law is blind! A different topic, but nonetheless important. In the case at hand, it appears that we have a couple who were equally dedicated to raise a family and one partner was employed outside the family while the other was employed inside the family. We should not discriminate and consider only the financial contribution brought from outside of the family. Should we put the husband on benefits while the wife enjoys a life of luxury? It’s all about the needs, similarity and equality in standard of living for the partners after separation. Otherwise, this case will never finish in courts and lawyers are getting richer and richer. Indeed the best place to divorce?!

  7. Luke says:

    “You are saying that a male partner in a relationship should not get a good settlement “because he hasn’t earned the money”. So, he raised the family as a favour to the wife on a volunteering bases? There is no notion of contribution to the family?”
    ==================================

    You are knocking down ‘straw men’, read what I wrote again, I didn’t say he shouldn’t get a “good settlement”, I am saying that his settlement should only be a minor portion of the enormous wealth that she has amassed.

    ================================
    We should not discriminate and consider only the financial contribution brought from outside of the family.
    ================================

    Agreed, we should not only consider the financial contribution – and you can talk in flowery terms about the contribution each has made – but when it comes to the financial distribution the idea that the party that managed to earn such enormous wealth should not get most of it is absolutely absurd.

    =================================
    It’s all about the needs, similarity and equality in standard of living for the partners after separation.
    =================================

    Well clearly you don’t think it is about needs – nobody ‘needs’ £5m – and I totally reject the premise that he should get so much on the grounds that he has a marriage certificate and he did more of the child care – the kids were at boarding school too – which she was paying for !
    I think if he got £2m total that would be MASSIVELY generous.

    People need to get a grip and grow up, the world isn’t all ‘Unicorns & Rainbows’ and earning money isn’t a walk in the park.

  8. Sandra says:

    I think we should wait for the Judgment. Postponed today until later in the week. You say “minor portion” and quantify this at £2 million as being MASSIVE. (May sound a lot to anyone not having a lot, but for those who always had a lot may sound LITTLE.) You consider this enough yet you don’t know the facts in relation to the standard of living enjoyed by the couple during their marriage. Boarding school does not mean that you ship the children away and get them only at holidays. So, again we don’t know all the facts and without this I would not call it or quantify what he or she should be getting. I am not knocking down anyone. On the contrary, we should not be judging anything without knowing all the facts. Isn’t this what one learns in law school?
    The bottom line is:
    -a divorce needs to be fair and not create wealth for the one party only.
    Agree to disagree? Let’s wait for the Judgment. Then we can comment on how fair those two people fortunate enough to create their wealth were treated by the UK Justice System.
    Earning money may not be easy, but bringing up children is also not easy!!
    Both parties need to walk out from their divorce with their heads up high so as to be able to have a civilised relationship that would benefit not only themselves but also their children. Would the system allow for this? Not all the times, but then the system’s failure gives us the opportunity to put our noses in other people’s personal affairs. :))

  9. Luke says:

    OK, but understand that I don’t care how extravagantly he lived previously so your comment on not knowing the facts of his spending habits is simply not relevant – and I don’t think the judgement whichever way it goes on this occasion will change the fact that we fundamentally differ on this and indeed will have to agree to disagree 🙂

  10. Sandra says:

    Luke, I never made a comment on “his spending habits”. We don’t know how he spent and how she spent. A family spends together as they live in the same house(s) and enjoy the same standard of living. From the facts we have seen in the media, they appear to have enjoyed a high standard of living. So, the division of matrimonial assets must be done fairly! Suspense is in the air to see how the UK Justice System manages fairness. Oh boy are we sharpening our pens…:)

  11. Luke says:

    “We don’t know how he spent and how she spent. A family spends together as they live in the same house(s) and enjoy the same standard of living. From the facts we have seen in the media, they appear to have enjoyed a high standard of living.”
    =======================================

    No, you’re not getting what I am saying, how much money you get through in the past should not be an important factor, if they have £11m worth of assets and he gets £2m he is doing exceptionally well regardless, especially where he is claiming in a country where the average person full time employee gets £25k a year !

    So basically you think his ‘needs’ are related to how high their spending habits were in the past and I think that’s a joke. This is another key point we disagree on. The courts have enormous powers of discretion on these decisions and in my view one of the reasons it is interpreted this way is so that the non-earning spouse gets a lot more money and the justice system (via the non earner’s lawyers) can justify big money via their fees. You can’t get blood out of a stone 🙂 If you want serious money bandied about you have to redistribute from the deepest pocket.

  12. Sandra says:

    I understand what you are saying, I am just NOT agreeing with you!

    The courts must have regard to the standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage and consider proper and fair division of all assets held in the matrimonial pot. The court is not concerned with the average income in the UK. This is a political point better dealt with by the politicians.

  13. Luke says:

    Well, at least you didn’t misquote me this time 🙂

  14. Luke says:

    Actually I meant misrepresented me – but you cannot edit these responses !

  15. Sandra says:

    Judgment was out this morning and overall pleased with it. The Court in England & Wales again sets a precedent on jurisdictional issue. As not all the facts were revealed in the Judgment, there was a brief mention in paragraph 23 on how the assets have been divided and legal costs met. The husband “achieved a significant lump sum from the sale of the wine representing his half share. He has sufficient security over other assets and will be entitled to interest on unpaid costs.”

  16. Luke says:

    So the English courts decide that this very wealthy case with rich pickings for all will be heard in the English courts – well I never ! 🙂

    I fear that this lady is about to be financially screwed in “The divorce capital of the world”…

  17. WC says:

    It may be pertinent to note http://www.dmhstallard.com/site/publications/legalnews/DMH_Stallard_divorce_case_victory.html

    Married in England. Children born in England. Home in England.

    It may also be pertinent to note http://www.brookman.co.uk/family-solicitors/international-divorce/china-japan-and-south-east-asia-law/hong-kong-divorce-family-law

    White v White applies in HK. Perhaps there is more than one divorce capital in the world.

  18. luke says:

    “Married in England. Children born in England. Home in England.”
    ====================================================

    Well that’s not quite the whole story – they had homes all over the place but their marriage mainly seemed to centre around Hong Kong. Mr Choy lived in the UK for the last 12 months – not really his wife – but that may well have been a ploy set up by him for the divorce.

    As for Hong Kong, well the richer spouse may get a pretty bad deal there too as it is a very recent former UK controlled society, but the fact that her lawyers were OK with Hong Kong but wanted basically anywhere but the UK is strongly indicative of what is thought about UK divorce courts.

    • WC says:

      =============================================================================
      ………. their marriage mainly seemed to centre around Hong Kong. Mr Choy lived in the UK for the last 12 months – not really his wife – but that may well have been a ploy set up by him for the divorce.
      =============================================================================
      Ploy not required. White v White applies in both England and HK. England has no material juridicial advantage over HK in terms of Ancillary Financial Relief. Husband lived in England, wife lived in HK. Take your pick of either England or HK. No real difference.

      ===================================================
      ………… but the fact that her lawyers were OK with Hong Kong……..
      ===================================================
      Not sure what you mean. There was no cross petition from HK. There cross petition was from Malaysia. Wife’s lawyers argued for a stay of English proceedings in favour of Malaysia but, para 41 of the judgement says, “There is a serious question whether [the husband] has abandoned his Malaysian domicile of origin notwithstanding the presumption of continuance referred to in the expert advice. That of itself raises an initial hurdle to be considered before substantial progress can be made in the Malaysian proceedings.” Why was it a serious question whether the husband had abandoned his Malaysian domicile of origin? They may have homes (houses) here and there but when did the family last reside in Malaysia?

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