Husband fails to protect overseas property from divorce settlement

A husband has failed to prevent a property held in his mother’s name being included in his wife’s divorce settlement.

The couple had married in 2002 but separated in 2014, having lived in rented property throughout their marriage.

The wife issued financial remedy proceedings and by the time of trial, a property in Panama was the only asset potentially available for distribution. Its purchase had been exclusively funded by the husband during the marriage.

It was only "potentially available" because legal ownership of the property was vested in a company of which the sole shareholder was the husband's mother.

The wife claimed that beneficial ownership of the property was jointly held by her and her husband and sought a lump sum order for an amount equal to half the net value of the property. The husband claimed that the funds to buy the property had been given to his mother by way of a gift.

The district judge found that there was no evidence of any intention to make such a gift and ordered the husband to pay the lump sum sought by the wife.

The husband appealed, arguing that there had been a serious procedural irregularity in the way the judge had made the order.

The case went all the way to the Court of Appeal, which ruled in favour of the wife.

It held that although there were some discrepancies in the way the judge made the order, there was no procedural irregularity in the way he reached his findings in relation to beneficial ownership of the property.

The lump sum order in favour of the wife remained.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.


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