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Saudi property tycoon can’t sell £20m home during divorce

A Saudi Arabian property developer has been banned from selling his £20 million London home as his wife will be living there during their divorce.

In Abuchian v Khojah, the 89 year old businessman married his Lebanese wife in 1979.

They had two children, born in 1981 and 1985. Their “main home” was in Saudi Arabia but the family also had places to live in Paris, Cannes and London.

Their marriage was “not entirely straightforward”, despite living “a life of considerable luxury”. They went through a divorce process in 1999 but reconciled in 2002 and stayed together until late 2013.

Once the marriage had broken down, the wife moved to England and began living in the London home. In March 2014 she was given notice to vacate the property within two weeks.

In response to this, the wife applied for two injunctions, one to prevent the husband selling the property and the other to stop him from evicting her. The injunctions were granted by Mr Justice Bodey but only covered a brief timespan.

The wife applied to the High Court for the injunctions to be extended.

Sir Paul Coleridge heard the “peculiarly complex” case, noting that the husband had pronounced a ‘talaq’, a Muslim divorce, in May and was “outraged” at the steps the wife had taken.

The husband’s contention was that the case should be heard in Saudi Arabia as the majority of their married life was spent in Jeddah, the country’s second largest city. He also argued that they spent hardly any time in London, “a few days a year” at most.

The wife claimed they had spent “significant” time in London, and that their youngest son was born there. She also stated her intention to live permanently in England “because she has no other home”.

Sir Paul Coleridge ruled that the injunctions should be extended for six months in order to give the courts time to make a decision regarding the ownership of the property.

The judge added that he did not expect the wife to still be living at the home by the end of the six month extension. He said she should start making arrangements to find somewhere else to live, unless an ownership decision is made in her favour.

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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