Businessman ordered to give his ex £25m

An Omani businessman worth more than £300million has been ordered to give his ex-wife £25million after she argued she needed a £400,000-a-year for holidays and a further £60k for pocket money.

The Family Division of the High Court in London heard the case of Talal Al Zawawi, 48 and his ex-wife Leila Hammoud, 36.

Ms Hammoud said she needed £400,000 a year for holidays for her and their three children, more than £60,000 a year to buy jewellery, more than £60,000 a year ‘pocket money’, £60,000 a year for ‘spectator events’ and £24,000 a year to buy shoes.

Mr Justice Holman concluded that about £21 million would meet her needs and about £3 million would be suitable for the children’s needs.

The calculations included more than £5million for a house and £75,000 for a car.

The judge said Mr Al Zawawi and Ms Hammoud could be named in media reports but he said their children should not be named.

Mr Justice Holman highlighted that under Omani law Ms Hammoud would get no financial provision and said it was right that she should make a cash claim in England.


Humanist marriages ‘least likely to end in divorce’

According to new figures, Scottish couples who chose a humanist wedding are less likely to divorce than those who had other types of marriage ceremony.

The statistics were revealed by BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme, obtained from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS).

Humanist weddings have been legal in Scotland since 2005 and are now reportedly more popular than Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic weddings combined.

In 2017-18, there were 5,702 humanist marriages in Scotland.

Northern Ireland legally recognised humanist weddings last year after a Court of Appeal ruling said it would breach human rights not to do so.

In England and Wales humanist ceremonies are permitted but do not carry legal recognition, meaning humanist couples must register their marriage civilly if they want to have a humanist wedding.


England’s biggest regional divorce centre hit by record delays

Delays at the England’s biggest regional divorce centre reached unprecedented levels in 2018.

Figures obtained by the Law Gazette found the average waiting times for each stage of the divorce process at Bury St Edmunds increased significantly last year, confirming many lawyers’ concerns about the centre’s ability to cope.

Bury St Edmunds is the main centre for divorces from London and the south-east. However, since opening as one of 11 regional centres in 2015, it has been a constant source of antagonism for divorcing couples and their lawyers.

According to the Law Gazette, figures provided by HM Courts & Tribunals Service, in response to a freedom of information request, reveal it took 373 days on average from the issue of petition to decree absolute in 2018 (up to the end of September). This was a 9% increase from 2017.

The eight-day wait for issuing the petition has more than doubled in a year, while the average time from issuing of petition to decree nisi has increased 17% to an average of 195 days.

HMCTS told the Law Gazette, “More broadly, we have increased the number of sitting days available in family courts in order to meet demand, while our online divorce service is speeding up the application process significantly.”

No-Fault Divorce To Become Law

Justice Secretary David Gauke announced that no-fault divorces are to become law in the UK.

At present, a couple must be married for a year and a day before they can apply for divorce. If after this time they choose to divorce, either partner can file for it, but only if certain conditions are met. Either the marriage must be past repair due to adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or having lived separately for two or more years – if both parties agree – or the couple must agree to live apart for more than five years.

This has been the law in England and Wales since 1973.

There have been several calls to modernise divorce law in England and Wales.

No-fault divorce was first introduced by the Family Law Act 1996, but its provisions were later deemed unworkable and it was repealed. It has been widely supported by prominent members of the judiciary, lawyers and relationship charities.

The legislative update means partners will no longer be able to refuse a divorce by not consenting to the two-year separation clause effectively ending occurrences of people being trapped in loveless marriages.



No-fault divorce to become law

No-fault divorces are to be introduced into law.

Justice Secretary, David Gauke, confirmed he will bring in legislation enacting the reform in the next session of parliament, removing the need for separating couples to wait for years or allocate blame for the collapse of their relationship.

Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England and Wales, anyone seeking a divorce must either prove their partner is at fault through adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour, or if both sides agree, they can part after two years of separation. In the absence of consent or evidence of fault, applicants must wait until they have been living apart for five years.

Following a consultation last year on reforming the law, widespread support was shown for the initiative. The Justice Secretary told the Times the responses to the consultation were “overwhelmingly in support, which is why I remain as convinced as I have been for the need to reform this particular area”.


Council of Europe calls for Muslim couples in UK to legally register marriage before or during Islamic ceremony

The Council of Europe has said Muslim couples getting married in the UK should be legally required to civilly register their union before or during the Islamic ceremony.

The organisation raised concerns about the role of sharia councils in family, inheritance and commercial law and called for obstacles stopping Muslim women from accessing justice to be removed.

British authorities were asked to increase measures to provide protection and assistance to those who are in a vulnerable position and run awareness campaigns which teach Muslim women about their rights.

The Council of Europe set a deadline of June 2020 for the UK to report back on reviewing the Marriage Act, which would make it a legal requirement for Muslim couples to undergo civil marriages – which is currently required for Christian and Jewish marriages.

Responding to the resolution, a Home Office spokesperson said, “Sharia law does not form any part of the law in England and Wales. Regardless of religious belief, we are all equal before the law. Where Sharia councils exist, they must abide by the law.

“Laws are in place to protect the rights of women and prevent discrimination, and we will work with the appropriate authorities to ensure these laws are being enforced fully and effectively.”



Jersey residents asked about views on divorce law

Jersey residents have been asked by their government how their 70-year old divorce law should be changed in a public consultation.

Views were sought on whether people should be allowed to divorce before their 3rd year of marriage.

The public were also asked if the age of marriage should be increased to 18 years of age and whether civil partnerships should be extended to opposite sex couples or removed altogether.

Three public meetings were held the matters were discussed.

The meetings formed part of a twelve-week consultation which is due to run until Friday, 22nd February.


Urgent Marriages Increasing With Those In Common Law Marriages

Recent statistics reveal an increasing number of couples are choosing to marry prior to one of the couple dying.

In recent years there has been a distinct increase in cohabiting couples living as common law husband and wife. However, many of these common law spouses do not make their partnership legal. Many are unaware that their shared assets will not receive the same legal protections as couples that marry.

Assets do not pass freely to their partner upon death. The person left behind can face inheritance tax problems that could force those that are grieving to sell their house to fund the tax bill.

According to the Home Office and Passport Office, there was a significant increase in the number of applications for urgent marriages with 190 urgent marriage applications made in 2018.

Urgent marriages are conducted in a bid to ensure protections from inheritance tax, often made where at least one of the couple was suffering from poor health.



Scottish man takes divorce to Supreme Court

A Scottish aristocrat has won the right to take his case to the Supreme Court.

Charles Villiers, 55, accused his former spouse, Emma, 60, of “trying it on” in the English courts as a divorce tourist, claiming she only moved to London when they separated in order to apply for maintenance via the more generous English courts.

He lost an initial bid to stop her from claiming £10,000 monthly maintenance payments in London last May, when the Court of Appeal rejected his claim that an English judge had no right to intervene in a Scottish divorce.

The Supreme Court has now, however, given him permission to appeal that order, leaving him “pleased and relieved” and hopeful that the case, which has dragged on for several years, will be heard by the five-judge panel before the summer.

Mr and Mrs Villiers married in 1994 and separated in 2012 after 17 years.

Mr Villiers filed for divorce in Scotland in 2014, but three months later Mrs Villers applied to the English courts for financial maintenance.

However, Mr Villiers is determined that the case be heard in Scotland, where inherited wealth is not included in divorce settlements and maintenance is limited to three years.



Divorced women over 50 end up with pensions worth £100,000 less than their ex-partners

Official figures show divorced women over the age of 50 end up with a pension worth £100,000 less than that of their former husband.

According to a survey of over-50s divorced people and married couples across Britain by the Office for National Statistics, the average pension pot of divorced women totals £131,000, compared to the £235,000 divorced men typically have.

The average divorced woman over 50 has property wealth of £169,000 compared to the £191,000 of men.

Former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb, who now works for insurer Royal London which compiled the analysis, said,

“‘Pensions are so complicated to understand that many people do not appreciate their value when they get divorced. Their focus tends to be on getting half of the house.

“But if your ex-husband has a generous pension built up over 25 years, it could be worth more than the house.”

He added, “When couples split up there is an understandable focus on family issues and on highly visible assets such as the family home.

“But very often one partner will have pension rights which are less visible but can be just as valuable.”