A wealthy Saudi property developer has failed in a bid to prevent his wife divorcing him the UK.
In Abuchian v Khojah, Sheikh Abdul Maksoud Mohammed Said A. Khojah met and married his Lebanese wife in 1979, and they went on to have two children. The family lived a luxurious, multinational lifestyle, with a main home in Saudi Arabia and others in London, Paris and Cannes.
An initial split was followed by a reconciliation in 2002, and the marriage then continued until 2013, when the relationship finally broke down. The wife moved to the couple’s London home and the following year, the 89-year old husband divorced his wife using a traditional Muslim talaq.
Now based in London, meanwhile, the wife sought permission to apply for a financial settlement – legally termed ‘financial relief’ – under English law. This would be done under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984.
Part III applies to ‘Applications for financial relief after overseas divorce’. It states that:
(a)a marriage has been dissolved or annulled, or the parties to a marriage have been legally separated, by means of judicial or other proceedings in an overseas country, and
(b)the divorce, annulment or legal separation is entitled to be recognised as valid in England and Wales,
either party to the marriage may apply to the court in the manner prescribed by rules of court for an order for financial relief under this Part of this Act.”
The wife told the courts that she did not feel safe staying with relatives in Beirut and the property in Cannes was a holiday home only. But she felt very much at home in London.
“I much prefer and feel more at home in London than Cannes. There is no other country or place with which I have any meaningful or substantial connection.”
The wife had a residence visa and planned to apply for permission to remain in the capital permanently.
She told the court:
“I simply wish to live out the rest of my life in a safe and familiar environment.”
Her application was successful but her husband applied to have her permission set aside, questioning the jurisdiction of the English courts.
Sitting at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Mostyn discussed the husband’s claims, saying the facts of the case did not meet the legal criteria necessary for exclusion of the wife’s claim.
Read the full judgement here.
At a hearing earlier this year, the Sheikh was banned from selling his £20 million London home because his estranged wife was still living in the property