When it comes to family law disputes, where a case is litigated can have huge implications. This has been clearly demonstrated by the recent case of Charles Villiers v Emma Villiers which is currently before the English courts.
Mr and Mrs Villiers married in 1994 and lived together in Dunbartonshire until they separated in 2012. Following the separation, Mrs Villiers and the parties’ adult daughter moved to London and set up home in Notting Hill.
Mr Villiers petitioned the Scottish courts for divorce in 2014, but three months later his wife applied to the court in England for an award of maintenance (monthly support). Mr Villiers is a man of means. He is a racehorse owner, publishing baron and scion of one of England’s oldest families. The English courts awarded Mrs Villiers the sum of £5,500 per month pending finalisation of the divorce. Mr Villiers is appealing that decision on the basis that the English courts should not have become involved, since the Scottish courts were already dealing with the divorce.
Maintenance to ex-spouses is far generally less generous in Scotland. Mr Villiers is of the view that Mrs Villiers has been “rewarded for moving from Scotland to England”. He has commented that if his wife wins, England will become “the maintenance capital of the United Kingdom” and may “face an invasion of divorcees from other home nations”.
Mr Villiers was declared bankrupt in 2013. His assets were seized and, the family home was repossessed in 2015. He has since been discharged from bankruptcy. His wife’s lawyers have pointed out to the court that he still has assets at his disposal which include a half share in a £3.5 million trust fund inherited from his grandmother and another £600,000 inheritance from his mother. Mrs Villiers is seeking maintenance at the rate of £10,000 per month.She claims that her husband has the means to provide that using his inherited wealth. Mr Villiers is defending this claim on the basis that his wife must fight her case in Scotland. North of the border, inherited wealth is treated differently.