Guides & Advice

Villiers vs Villiers: A case of ‘divorce tourism’

Published: 6th July 2020
Area: For the individual

Villiers vs Villiers: A case of ‘divorce tourism’

Why choosing your divorce location matters

On 1st July 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Mrs Villiers, a woman wishing to take advantage of ‘divorce tourism’. This relates to divorcing in a location that may give you a more favourable settlement.

Her husband, Mr Villiers, wanted the divorce to be dealt with in Scotland alone, where they had lived for most of their married lives. However, Mrs Villiers desired for the maintenance case to be heard in England, where she had been living for some time after the separation.

It is rare for divorce cases to reach the heights of the Supreme Court, but this one was unusual. So, what does the ruling mean for you?

What is ‘divorce tourism’?

Simply put, divorce tourism is where people apply to have parts of their divorce handled in different jurisdictions – i.e. a different geographical location – England vs Scotland, for example.

What are the benefits of using different jurisdictions?

English and Scottish law are not the same. Scottish courts deal with divorces in a much more formulaic way than their English counterparts. South of the border, the courts take a more discretionary approach and award settlements that they feel are appropriate depending on individual circumstances.

Jurisdiction is critical in any divorce and it’s important to explore all options available. If it’s possible to have proceedings heard in a country with a potentially more favourable legal system – England and Wales, for example – then this would obviously be a wise move for anyone looking to commence divorce proceedings. However, it’s important to be aware that it’s often necessary to meet a number of criteria around residency and citizenship to have this choice.

Is ‘divorce tourism’ a guaranteed win?

While this Supreme Court ruling is cause for celebration for Mrs Villiers, the victory comes with a significant safety warning. Having her maintenance appeal heard by the English, rather than Scottish courts, is still no guarantee that she will get what she wants.

In addition, there could be certain challenges to overcome if various aspects of the case are determined in different jurisdictions.

What does this case mean for the future of UK family law?

Ultimately, whilst this is an interesting legal point, a question mark remains around how many people this particular decision will affect. The costly level of litigation means it is unlikely to lead to a sudden uptick in people looking to make the most of ‘divorce tourism’.

Of course, divorce tourism isn’t only applicable to those filing for divorce in England and Wales versus Scotland, there are multiple and complex nuances across jurisdictional territories around the entire world. However, there are many reasons why London is long thought of as the ‘divorce capital of the world’.

The divorcing process can be exhausting and stressful enough for separating couples, without having a Supreme Court ruling to contend with. With such complexity about where divorce proceedings take place and the difference it can make, it is worth seeking counsel well before these first steps are taken.

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