Spousal maintenance: High Court rules on jurisdiction

Family Law|January 27th 2015

A High Court judge has ruled that England and Wales has jurisdiction in a financial settlement case involving several countries.

In AA v BB, a Kosovo-born couple with four children had divorced after approximately 20 years of marriage. During their marriage they had relocated to Slovenia. In 2008, the mother and children moved to England and, in 2010, the father moved to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The marriage officially ended in November 2011 after the wife launched proceedings in Slovenia. In September 2010, she withdrew a request for maintenance for her and her older children, which the husband agreed to.

However, she still sought maintenance for her youngest child, and was awarded €5,640 a month by the Slovenian court, despite the husband’s attempts to appeal the ruling.

While the finances were not clear in this case, the husband had accounts and assets in several countries and the wife estimated that he was worth around €68 million. She claimed a share of the money as part of her divorce settlement but was only awarded €290,000 as the Slovenian court did not have the power to make awards from accounts and assets outside the country.

She was then given leave to apply for financial remedy orders in England under section 14 of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984, which allows for spousal maintenance following a divorce. She argued that since she lived here, the English court could assume jurisdiction.

In response, the husband made his own application. He sought to have the permission granted to his ex-wife to pursue claims in England struck out. In his argument, he cited articles 12 and 13 of the EU Maintenance Regulation. These state that when someone pursues the same action in more than one member state, the first country to assume jurisdiction would retain it for the remainder of the case.

Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Justice Moylan ruled that as the wife had withdrawn her request for maintenance in Slovenia, there was no conflict between EU member states. Additionally, he declared that as the wife was habitually resident in England, the courts of this country had jurisdiction so the financial proceedings could go ahead.

To read the full judgment, click here.

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