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Marilyn Stowe on big money divorce & English courts

Stowe Family Law Senior Partner Marilyn Stowe is quoted in today’s Independent discussing the multimillion Chai v Peng divorce.

Pauline Chai, a former Malaysian beauty queen, is currently battling her estranged husband Khoo Kay Peng through the courts for a share of his fortune. Her legal costs have now hit £920,000, the paper reports, prompting High Court judge Mr Justice Holman to claim that wealthy divorcees from abroad are “squeezing out needy litigants”.

Following a one day hearing in the continuing clash, the judge declared:

“The legal costs which have been incurred already (by the couple) can only be described as eye-watering. Neither of them are British citizens. Neither of them currently pays any English taxes whatsoever. Very serious issues ought to arise as to just how much time of an English court these parties should be able to take up on these preliminary skirmishes, whilst squeezing out the many needy litigants who need precious court time to recover their children from abduction or seek their return from care, and other such issues.”

Mr Judge Holman said an expensive ten day hearing scheduled for October to decide whether or not the case should proceed in England or Malaysia “borders on the fantastic”.

“At the moment it appears to me that this worldwide litigation is completely out of control.”

Speaking to the paper, Marilyn Stowe said wealthy couples had been attracted to the English courts by the 2000 case of White v White, which established the principle of asset sharing as a starting point for financial settlements in divorce.

She added:

“Since then a less wealthy spouse has felt they might get a better hearing in England than abroad and the English justice system is very well respected around the world. I would caution that (the Chai v Peng) case is not typical – the courts are not awash with these kind of cases so it’s important to keep it in proportion.

“It does make you wonder however whether there should not be a different structure or court system for high net worth individuals to litigate in appropriate cases.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Luke says:

    ” Since then a less wealthy spouse has felt they might get a better hearing in England than abroad and the English justice system is very well respected around the world.”

    Well, the English justice system is out of step with just about every other divorce court system in the entire world – and usually I think the LAST place the wealthier spouse wants to have the divorce process heard is the English courts – so I don’t think respect in the system has much to do with it when people make a choice, it’s all about where one can get the best payoff.

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