Divorce Mediation

English Courts A Magnet For High Net Worth Foreign Nationals Seeking Fairer Financial Settlements In Divorce

A successful application under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (MFPA) allows courts in England and Wales the power to make financial orders, after a marriage has been dissolved in a foreign jurisdiction.  

Where there is a substantial connection with England and Wales and when no financial provision was made by the foreign court, or where the provision made is deemed to be inadequate, English courts can make an order.  In England and Wales, marriage is seen as an equal partnership, regardless if one party generated the majority of the wealth.  It is not surprising that high net worth foreign nationals use English courts to seek financial awards, nor that there is significant media interest when it does happen.

A recent case to hit the headlines is that of Natalia Potanina who although was divorced from her husband Vladimir Potanin through the Russian court in 2014, seeks what she feels is a fairer financial award. Mrs Potanina hopes an application for jurisdiction of a Part III will allow a financial order to be made through the English courts, however she will need to meet certain requirements;

  1. one of the parties must have been living in England or Wales at the time of the foreign decree, or
  2. one of the parties much have been habitually resident in England or Wales for one year preceding the application or final foreign decree, or
  3. one party is entitled to a beneficial interest in property in England or Wales that was a matrimonial home.

Mrs Potanina has been resident in London since 2016.

The couple, married for 30 years, had financial matters settled in the Russian courts, however Mrs Potanina feels information in calculating the settlement was either ignored or hidden, meaning the £5.5 million settlement she was awarded was significantly undervalued considering Mr Potanin is reported to have an estimated £15 billion net worth.

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Mrs Potanina revealed that despite her husband serving her divorce papers, in their native Russia, in 2013, he requested that the court backdate the divorce to a particular date in 2007, when he stated he felt the marriage had dissolved.  Mrs Potanina feels this was a tactical move to value Mr Potanin’s assets as significantly less, as this was when “the holding structure of Norilsk Nickel shares changed dramatically”.  Appeals to Russian courts have been unsuccessful, Mrs Potanina believes this may be due to her ex-husband’s friendship with President Vladimir Putin.

If Mrs Potanina is successful in her application of a Part III, English courts are more likely to scrutinise Mr Potatin’s assets and worth, through financial disclosure as well as any evidence from a financial audit.  Unless her ex-husband can establish that his vast wealth was generated outside of the marriage or can prove he made a ‘special contribution’ contributing to the wealth, an English court may overturn the Russian courts’ decisions.  This would give Mrs Potanina a pay-out similar to one she may have received should the original case had been taken through an English court.

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