British law must apply to wife's settlement after overseas divorce

A wife was entitled to a financial settlement from her husband that reflected British law even though their divorce was granted abroad.

That was the decision of the High Court in a case involving an Omani man and Lebanese woman.

The couple had been married for 12 years and had lived a luxurious lifestyle in Oman. The husband was extremely wealthy and provided for his wife, who was not expected to work.

The family moved to England to have their children privately educated.

The marriage broke down and the husband returned to Oman. He stopped making payments to his wife, stopped paying the children’s school fees, and got a divorce.

Under Omani law, financial provision for the wife was negligible.

She applied to the High Court in England for a settlement of £56m. The husband had assets worth an estimated £300m.

The judge ruled that a figure of £24m for the wife was appropriate. He acknowledged that Omani law must be taken into account, given the couple had spent 10 years of their marriage living there.

However, it was also important to apply British law to the case, specifically the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984, which states the husband and wife should share the matrimonial assets.

Balancing the guidelines of both Omani and British law, the judge decided the financial settlement should be calculated on a needs basis for the wife.

Totalling up the amount needed for the wife to maintain a home for the children to a standard similar to what they had been accustomed to until they were aged about 22, and to pay for the children to complete their education, the judge ruled the husband pay the wife a total clean-break sum of £24m.

That would still leave him with over £270m.

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