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Judge awards property to divorcing wife

The High Court has transferred ownership of a London property to a divorced women, dismissing a counter application.

MA v SK concerned a couple who had been married for 20 years when they divorced in 1999. Their original Sharia marriage had taken place in the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park. Three years later, however, the couple remarried, only to separate again a decade later. The husband, originally from Saudi Arabia and now aged no less than 90, was a highly successful property developer, while his younger wife, from Beirut in Lebanon, is a former air hostess. She is now 63.

The couple had two children – both boys. The older brother was born in France in 1981, and the younger one in 1985 in London. Sitting in the High Court, Mr Justice Moor noted that the older brother had since passed away.

“Tragically, he died in April 2010 in Jeddah. I have no doubt that this tragedy has been a significant factor in the breakdown of the parties’’ marriage.”

The wife claimed that a disagreement over their elder son also caused the couple’s first divorce.

During the course of the couple’s marriage, a property in London was purchased. This consists of three originally separate flats, bought on different dates. They also owned properties in Paris and Cannes.

Following their second divorce, the wife sought a declaration of her interest in this property, where she still lives, under both the Married Women’s Property Act 1882 and the Family Law Act 1996. Meanwhile, a company partly owned by the husband made a counter application for ownership.

Mr Justice Moor ruled that the wife had established domicile (legal residence) in this country despite currently only holding an investor’s visa. and that she had lifestyle needs of approximately £10 million. He dismissed the company’s claim and awarded the woman ownership of the London home, along with the husband’s shares in the company which had counterclaimed as well as his share in the couple’s Cannes property, saying such a transfer was reasonable in the circumstances. His ruling on ownership of the matrimonial home was based on precedents established in the much discussed case of Prest v Petrodel Resources.

Mr Justice Moor assessed the husband’s wealth at approximately £287.5 million. He declared:

“This was a long marriage.  Even if I ignore the position prior to the original marriage in 1979 and the period when the parties were first divorced, I am dealing with a marriage of some 31 years.  There were two children and this Wife has made a full contribution during the marriage by looking after the family and the homes.  She undoubtedly has significant needs that are unmet without an award from this court.  The Husband has the resources to meet those needs without difficulty.”

Read the judgement here.

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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