Divorce settlement decided for biggest case in British legal history

Divorce settlement decided for biggest case in British legal history

Former wife of multi-billionaire ruler of Dubai receives more than £500m in divorce settlement.

The UK’s High Court has awarded a lump sum settlement of £251.5m to Princess Haya Bint Al-Hussain, the 47-year-old former wife of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE.

At Tuesday’s hearing the court also awarded payments of £5.6m-a-year to each of her two children, to be secured with a £290m guarantee. In addition, Princess Haya is set to receive funds to cover the cost of running her two UK-based multi-million pound properties in London and Surrey, as well as a substantial security budget.

The Jordanian Princess fled with their two children to the UK in 2019 following claims that she was “terrified” of her husband, after he had previously abducted two of his other daughters back to Dubai against their will.

High Court judgments in October revealed that Princess Haya’s phone had been hacked by Sheikh Mohammed using the spyware tool Pegasus, developed by Israeli company NSO. The tool is supposed to be used to combat terrorism and serious crime, and according to NSO, is only permitted to be used for these specific purposes.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the High Court’s family division ruled that the hacking was an “abuse of power” by a head of government resulting in “serial breaches of (UK) domestic criminal law … in violation of fundamental common law and ECHR rights, interference with the process of this court and the mother’s access to justice”.

In the divorce judgment on Tuesday, Mr Justice Moor, decided that the princess and her two children were particularly vulnerable and given earlier rulings needed watertight security to ensure their continued safety in the UK.

There is a clear and ever-present risk to these children that is almost certain to persist until they obtain their independence … there will remain a clear and ever-present risk to [Princess Haya] for the remainder of her life, whether it be from [Sheikh Mohammed] or just from the normal terrorist and other threats“, he said.

Sarah Ingram, Partner at Winckworth Sherwood, said:

“This is one of the highest awards made for financial relief after an overseas divorce, and demonstrates why London remains such an attractive jurisdiction for international divorces, particularly for the financially weaker party seeking their equal share.  

However, this is only stage one for Princess Haya as she will now need to deal with the unenviable task of enforcing the order to ensure that she actually receives this large award.  As we have seen in a spate of other recent high-profile divorces, such as Akhmedov v Akhmedova, Lady Hiroko Barclay v Sir Frederick Barclay and Rogan v Rogan, this can often prove to be a long and arduous task, and is arguably the Achilles heel of the English Family Court system.  Whilst the courts have the flexibility to make such generous awards, they do not have similarly effective tools available to them to ensure that these awards involving offshore assets are consistently implemented.”

Today's Family Lawyer

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