Concern has been highlighted in the press recently regarding potential for 'divorce tourism' following the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Golubovich. Elena Golubovich, a Russian Fashion Student, had been married to her husband, an International Financier for 18 months. She was 27 and he was 26. They married in 2007 and had both come from wealthy Russian families. The parties had divorced in Russia. The Court of Appeal upheld an order made by the High Court that she should received £2.85m. The parties had very young children and the English Court felt that although this was a short marriage the award was justified by the legitimate expectation of the wife during the marriage.
Mr Golubovich's lawyer claimed that this decision had potential to make Britain the 'divorce capital of the world', however, in fact there was far more to this case than initially reported in the press and it is unlikely that it would have this effect. The order was made under a special provision allowing the English Courts to make orders where a couple had close connections with England, the divorce had been dealt with abroad and the Court did felt it necessary to make an order because there had been inadequate or no financial provision made by the Courts in the Country where the divorce had taken place, in this case by the Russian Courts.
This was a difficult case where the Husband had forged divorce papers from Russia to convince the English Courts that Russia had jurisdiction to deal with the divorce. The divorce had as a result been in Russia, but financial provision was made for the wife in the High Court in London. The husband challenged the decision arguing that the English Courts did not have jurisdiction as the divorce had been dealt with in Russia and further that almost all of the wealth came from his family.
We live in a global economy where it is increasingly common for people to move fluidly between counties. It is very important to be aware that the country which deals with the divorce proceedings can have a huge impact on the overall outcome of the case. Even within Europe different countries have entirely different approaches to family law.
Cases such as Golubovich highlight a number of issues. Mr Golubovich is likely to wish he had a pre-nuptial agreement, Mrs Golubovich will be very glad they didn't. In cases where one party is likely to bring more to the marriage than another, a pre-nuptial agreement is essential for wealth protection. This case also demonstrates the need to obtain early legal advice upon separation. This is even more important if either party has an international connection, when it is absolutely essential to take legal advice immediately upon or even before separation.