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Posted by familylaw on 28th January 2022
Largest divorce settlement ever ordered by an English Court

Whilst elements of the high profile divorce of Pricess Haya were unique there are things that apply to our clients divorce cases, explains divorce solicitor Hannah Porter.

The sum awarded to Princess Haya is believed to be the largest ever ordered by an English Court. The children have also been awarded a £3 million education fund. Part of the financial award made was £11 million security budget for Princess Haya and her children whilst they are in education.

When the children finish university Princess Haya will then receive a security budget of £5.5 million per year for the rest of her life, with both children then receiving similar sums. This ruling followed Sir Andrew McFarlane’s discovery that there had been unauthorised hacking of Princess Haya’s phone, and that of her lawyers by spyware.

The Court ruled that “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 faced by a princess in her position.”

Lessons for everyday divorce cases

The background to this case is unique and so specific that you may think it has no immediate application to any situation you may be facing regarding resolving your financial matters following marital breakdown. However, there are seven elements to the judgment in this matter that can inform the everyday case.

  • The Court’s view hacking of phones, and spying upon people is very serious and this something that you must never do.

 

  • Princess Haya’s lawyers applied for a maintenance payments for her children to be capitalised (i.e paid as one lump sum rather than in annual instalments). The Court declined this request stating that it is very rare for courts to capitalise payments for children and instead made a secured periodical payments order. If your case is one in which you may wish to ask for payments for your children, be aware that such payments are likely to be periodical not one large lump sum.

 

  • Princess Haya, in having to flee to England, had left behind almost all her belongings, and other assets such as her horses. As it could be clearly established that there was substantial value attached to the possessions that she had to leave behind, part of the award made to her by the Court, was to compensate her for having lost all her belongings. Often when you separate, items that were shared or belong to you end up being in the possessions of your spouse and this naturally may cause a great deal of upset. If the matter cannot be resolved swiftly between you or through your lawyers, it may be more cost effective for an agreement to be reached that one party may keep the belongings and other party receives a lump sum payment in lieu of such belongings. It is also prudent to be mindful of the value of the belongings over which you are arguing. It may be that the legal fees spent on arguing over a particular item will exceed the value of that item and it is therefore not cost effective.

 

  • Throughout the case, Sheikh Mohammed refused to attend Court or give evidence saying that he could not do so due to his position as ruler of Dubai. The Court in this case was clear that they could draw adverse inferences (i.e. draw negative conclusions about why Sheikh Mohammed had chosen not to attend). This situation is not one found only in financial remedy proceedings of the ultra-rich. Irrespective of your financial position, the Court has little sympathy for those that refuse to engage in Court proceedings,  fail to attend and/or fail to provide the requisite documents when ordered to do so. If you are in Court proceedings and do not comply with the Court’s directions, you may face a costs order being made against you, a penal notice or the Court preferring your spouse’s version of events over yours simply on the basis that you have not engaged properly with the Court process.

 

  • When deciding the financial award a detailed budget had to be submitted (as does anybody going through financial remedy proceedings) setting out precisely what the spouse needs each month. The Court then ordered her day to day living needs be paid as maintenance payments rather than one lump sum. Sometimes a lump sum is preferable as it severs ties between spouses and allows the receiver the certainty of having the money they need for the future. However, in certain circumstances there are not enough assets for a lump sum payment or maintenance payments are considered more appropriate as they can be varied upwards or downwards at a later date if either parties’ financial circumstances change.

 

  • In this case the Court made an order that Princess Haya’s legal fees were to be paid by Sheikh Mohammed (although the sums allowed by the Court did not always cover her costs and she had to find ways to fund this). In case of substantial financial disparity between the parties the Court may be willing to make an order that one party should pay the other party’s legal fees.  The party who wishes to have their legal fees paid by their spouse needs to show the Court that they cannot pay themselves or obtain a loan from a bank, family members, a litigation loan funding and are not eligible for legal aid.

 

  • Covid 19 did play a factor in this judgement as the Court determined that Princess Haya’s annual budget needs and security needs were less due to taking less holidays and travel due to Covid. Covid-19 may be a factor in your case, it may mean a party’s needs are reduced, it may also mean income is reduced and the amount of money to be shared is less.

To discuss divorce cases and the situation you may find yourself in please do not hesitate to contact the Family Law Company for an initial free half hour appointment.

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