Family Law cases to watch 2018: Villiers v Villiers

This year promises a host of potential changes to the way that family courts decide cases...

This year promises a host of potential changes to the way that family courts decide cases. Several high profile cases are due to be heard in either the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal this year and the outcome of each is eagerly anticipated by family lawyers.

This week we are looking at each case and its impact in detail. Today, we look at Villiers v Villiers and cross jurisdictional maintenance disputes.

Villiers v Villiers and its outcome is long awaited by lawyers on both sides of the border of England/Scotland.

Mr and Mrs Villiers were married for 18 years and spent the majority of their married life in Scotland. Mrs Villiers then moved to England with their daughter.

Mr Villiers issued divorce proceedings in Scotland in 2014 but did not instigate financial claims there. This gave his wife the opportunity to make a financial  application under a little used English  law claiming Mr Villiers was failing to maintain her.

Although unable to ask the English court to look the whole financial settlement on divorce as this would need to be dealt with in Scotland, she felt that the English court may be more generous to her in terms of maintenance than the Scottish court. 

The English court concluded that it had jurisdiction to deal with her maintenance claim and ordered him to pay £5,500 [per month] interim maintenance.

He disputes the English court’s ability to make this order when divorce proceedings are taking place in Scotland, a different jurisdiction. The matter will be heard further in the Court of Appeal.

A decision in favour of Mr Villiers would be consistent with a previously decided EU case and close a loophole which risks parties litigating their divorce and the financial consequences of that divorce in two different jurisdictions. 

If the limited ‘loophole’ enabling a maintenance claim to be brought in England even though divorce proceedings are on-going elsewhere is closed, this would create greater certainty for lawyers on both sides of the border.

Meera Shinh is a Family Law Solicitor at Weightmans.

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