An English court has ruled on the marriage of an Egyptian couple.
In PS v RS, the couple in question were both married in the North African nation in 1996, but later settled in England, and their two children were both born here. The husband was a well-paid GP and the family became wealthy.
However, the marriage began to break down and the husband and wife both began divorce proceedings in 2010: the husband did so in the Egyptian courts and the wife in Britain. Following a brief reconciliation, divorce proceedings recommenced in earnest the following year.
In her renewed application, the wife accused her husband of trying to ‘dissipate assets’ – a legal term for reckless spending or concealment of funds. However, her bid to have the divorce settled in the English courts was unsuccessful: the couple’s marriage in Egypt had been valid, a judge ruled.
However, all was not lost. The English court could still retain jurisdiction where a financial settlement made by courts abroad was not made at all or was manifestly unfair. It isn’t an easy application to make, the law is complex and in this particular case that was only too clear as both parties were legally unrepresented in Court. The wife had returned the courts with an application for ‘financial relief’ (a financial settlement), under the terms of Part III The Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984. Sections 12 and 13 of this cover ‘applications for financial relief after overseas divorce’ and state that even when a marriage took place outside England and Wales, the family courts may make an order “requiring the other party to the marriage to make any payment or transfer any property to the applicant or a child of the family.”
The wife sought a number of provisions: periodical payments (maintenance), payment of a lump sum, property and a share in her husband’s pension. Her application followed the husband’s failure to pay even the modest sum ordered the Egyptian courts during the divorce proceedings.
Sitting at Leeds County Court, Mr Justice Moylan made the strong point that had the parties been represented things would have been better but nevertheless said it was clear that the couple had substantial links to the UK and held valuable assets in the this jurisdiction. The wife had cleared the hurdle for a settlement and given the clear links with this country it was appropriate, under section 16(a) of the legislation, for the courts to rule as though the divorce was purely English. Sections 16(a) states that judges must consider the links which a couple married abroad have with this jurisdiction. In other cases provided jurisdiction can be established an applicant might not be permanently resident in England and Wales to make the application and a financial settlement would be adjusted accordinfly.
Mr Justice Moylan concluded that the husband had tried to conceal as much as £850,000 from the wife by transferring sums to family members abroad and by buying property overseas.
The husband’s earned more than three times as much as his estranged wife and the couple had combined assets of nearly £2 million. The wife should receive the former matrimonial home, ruled the Judge, as well as a lump sum and a share of the husband’s pension.
Part III applications are never easy to make, this case won’t open flood gates for those dissatisfied with a settlement made abroad. But it’s always worth taking legal advice to check.
Read the ruling here.