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Aristocrat’s ‘divorce tourist’ ex-wife to fight for a slice of his fortune

Emma Mary Jane Villiers arriving at the Appeal Court in London earlier this week

An aristocrat’s ex-wife can fight for a slice of his inherited fortune in the English courts – even though they spent almost all their married life in Scotland.

Charles Villiers, 55, a relative of the Duchess of Cornwall, accused his ex-wife, Emma of ‘trying it on’ in the English courts as a cross-border divorce tourist.

He said that, if she won her case, England will become ‘the maintenance capital of the United Kingdom’ and face an invasion of divorcees from other home nations.

But, in a groundbreaking decision, top judges in London ruled today that Mrs Villiers is entitled to claim maintenance from her ex-husband south of the border.

That is even though their divorce is still on-going in Scotland, Lady Justice King told the Court of Appeal.

The former couple, who have a grown-up daughter, lived for all but one year of their marriage in Milton House, an 18th century manor, in Dunbartonshire.

But, after 17 years together, they separated in 2012 and he launched divorce proceedings in Scotland.

Mrs Villiers, however, brought her battle for £10,000 a month in maintenance in England, where the divorce courts are viewed as more generous.

Under Scottish law, inherited wealth is not taken into account when dividing assets after a marriage breaks down.

Emma Villiers and her daughter Clarissa Villiers are pictured together at an event

Charles Alastair Hyde Villiers outside court

Emma Villiers and her daughter Clarissa Villiers (left) are pictured together at an event and Charles Alastair Hyde Villiers outside court earlier this week (right)

Maintenance payouts in Scotland are generally limited to just three years after a divorce is finalised.

But, in England, Mrs Villiers, 58, could potentially secure financial support for the rest of her life from her ex.

Mr Villiers filed for divorce in Scotland in 2014 but, three months later, Mrs Villiers applied to the English courts for maintenance.

In 2016, Mrs Justice Parker ruled that the English High Court had the power to help her, because she was by then ‘habitually resident’ in England.

Post-breakup Mrs Villiers and the couple’s daughter, 22, had moved south and set up home in Kensington, west London.

The judge ordered Mr Villiers to pay her £2,500-a-month in interim maintenance, and left the door open for her to claim more.

The former family home, an 18th century country manor, in Dunbartonshire, Scotland.

The former family home, an 18th century country manor, in Dunbartonshire, Scotland.

Mr Villiers was also ordered to shell out £3,000-a-month as a contribution to his ex-wife legal bills.

Michael Horton, for Mr Villiers, argued that the English judge had no right to intervene in a Scottish divorce.

Mrs Villiers, he argued, had effectively been ‘rewarded for moving from Scotland to England.’

But Lady Justice King ruled there was nothing wrong with his ex-wife launching a maintenance claim in England.

Although her divorce was still on-going in Scotland, that related ‘only to the status’ of Mr and Mrs Villiers as a married couple.

Clarissa who moved south with her mother to live in Kensington, west London

The judge added: ‘Forum shopping is often regarded as being unattractive in family proceedings.’

But Mrs Villiers had made no maintenance claim in Scotland and was ‘perfectly entitled to choose’ to do so in England instead.

Mrs Villiers wed the blue-blooded racehorse owner, publishing baron and scion of one of England’s oldest families in 1994.

He has family links with Camilla through his mother Elizabeth Keppel, the daughter of Viscount Bury, and the Duchess’ maternal grandmother Sonia Keppel.

But despite his lofty heritage, Mr Villiers’ faced financial troubles that came to a head post-breakup and he was declared bankrupt in 2013.

His assets were seized and, although he was discharged from bankruptcy the following year, the family manor was repossessed in 2015.

His ex-wife’s lawyers say he is far from penniless, however, and has family money, including a half share in a £3.5m trust fund inherited from his grandmother.

The total value of his inherited wealth ‘may be much more’ if a London flat held by a family-controlled company is added to the pot, they claim.

Mrs Villiers says she and her daughter need £10,000 a month to live on and that her husband has the means to provide for them. 

 

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