London has earned its reputation as the divorce capital of the world following a series of huge pay-outs in favour of the ‘financially weaker spouse’.
The nickname – cemented by an emphasis on full disclosure from both parties – has encouraged foreign-born spouses to seek divorce settlements in London, rather than their home country.
Another reason for taking legal action in London is the fact that English courts have the discretion to decide on a case-by-case basis whether prenuptial agreements are binding.
In 2012, The Times found that a sixth of divorce cases heard by English courts involved foreign nationals. Of the cases where huge sums were involved, around half are thought to involve international couples.
Ayesha Vardag, a lawyer who has represented a number of wealthy clients in high-profile divorce battles, said: ‘The principle that there is no discrimination between breadwinner and homemaker is the cornerstone of why the English jurisdiction is seen as a particularly fair one for the financially weaker spouse.’
MailOnline takes a look at some of the biggest divorce payouts…
Farkhad Akhmedov, a Russian energy tycoon
1. Akhmedov v Akhmedova – £453million
Tatiana Akhmedova was given a 41.5% share of Farkhad Akhmedov’s £1billion-plus fortune following a London divorce court money fight.
News of Ms Akhmedova’s payout emerged during the summer of 2017 following a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London overseen by a High Court judge.
Mr Justice Haddon-Cave revealed detail of the case in a written ruling published on a legal website.
His award was thought to be the biggest made by a divorce court judge in England.
However, the ruling has been challenged through an appeal.
2. Cooper v Hohn – £337m
The case of philanthropists Sir Christopher Hohn and Jamie Cooper was concluded by Mrs Justice Roberts in December 2014.
The husband was successful in his argument for ‘special contribution’ and the judge departed from equality to award the wife £337 million, 36 per cent of the overall total assets.
In June 2017 Sir Geoffrey Vos then ordered Sir Christopher to make a payment of £282 million from his charity into his ex-wife’s own foundation.
3. Estrada v Juffali – £75m
The divorce between model Christina Estrada and Saudi billionaire Walid Juffali was finalised by Mrs Justice Roberts in June 2016.
The case was notable for the consideration of the couple’s ‘stratospheric’ standard of living and Juffali’s Islamic marriage to a second wife in 2012.
Mr Juffali had previously tried to avoid the proceedings through a ‘spurious’ assertion of diplomatic immunity.
The divorce between model Christina Estrada and Saudi billionaire Walid Juffali was finalised by Mrs Justice Roberts in June 2016
4. WM v HM – £73m
Mr Justice Mostyn presided over the case of WM v HM in May 2017. The husband’s claim for ‘special contribution’ was dismissed and the wife was awarded £73 million.
The case was also interesting for Mostyn J’s words on valuing a business in hindsight.
Former Miss Malaysia beauty queen Pauline Chai wanted around £100m from ex-husband Khoo Kay Peng following the breakdown of their 42-year marriage
5. Chai v Peng £64.5m
Former Miss Malaysia beauty queen Pauline Chai wanted around £100m from ex-husband Khoo Kay Peng following the breakdown of their 42-year marriage.
Dr Khoo, non-executive chairman of Laura Ashley Holdings, said she should pocket about £9m.
After analysing the evidence at the trial at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Bodey announced his decision last year that Ms Chai should get a £64m package made up of cash and property.
6. Al-Baker v Al-Baker £61m
The judgment for the multinational case of Sarah Al-Baker v Abdul Amir Al-Baker was handed down in October 2016 by Mr Nicholas Cusworth QC.
The case which stretched between civil and religious courts was remarkable because of the husband’s consistent non-compliance and non-disclosure which resulted in the wife being awarded £61 million.
7. M v M – £54m
Mrs Justice Eleanor King DBE presided over the case of M v M in August 2013, resulting in the wife being awarded £54m.
Owing to the Russian couple’s marital assets being tied up in offshore trusts, the case had an extra five respondents.
8. Charman v Charman – £48m
In 2006 Beverley Charman, the former wife of insurance magnate John Charman was awarded a £48million settlement by the English courts in proceedings which took two years.
Mr Charman appealed the decision but the pay out, which made legal history at the time, was upheld in 2007.
9. Sorrell v Sorrell – £30m
The case of Lady Sorrell v Sir Martin Sorrell was heard by Mr Justice Bennett in July 2005.
This is one of the rare cases where a husband successfully argued ‘special contribution’, which led to Lady Sorrell being awarded £30million, a 60/40 split of the marital assets.
The acrimonious split saw the head of advertising group WPP living for a time in the basement of their Knightsbridge townhouse.
In the divorce settlement, she also got two parking spaces at Harrods.
10. Young v Young £20m (£6m costs)
Mr Justice Moor handed down the judgment for Young v Young in November 2013.
Michelle and Scot Young were involved in a particularly public divorce battle where, though he was legally bankrupt, the wife insisted that the husband had thousands or millions hidden offshore.
Ultimately, the wife was awarded £20 million and the husband was ordered to pay £6 million – believed to be the highest costs order in family law history.
Michelle and Scot Young were involved in a particularly public divorce battle where, though he was legally bankrupt, the wife insisted that the husband had thousands or millions hidden offshore
Many divorces do not end up in court, such as the 2008 split of Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone and his wife, Slavica, who got a settlement estimated at £790million.