Part III applications for relief in English and Welsh family law

8th March 2015 by

 

Family law solicitors in London, Brighton and across the UK continually look to the courts to clarify law and circumstances under which certain provisions of the statutes are applicable.

In March 2010 the Supreme Court ruled upon a case which clarified the circumstances in which an order for financial provision on divorce can be made under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (MFPA), where a ruling has previously been made by a foreign family law court.

The case

Mr and Mrs Agbaje, a Nigerian-born couple, met and married in England 38 years before divorcing in 2005. They both acquired British citizenship in 1972 and had five children; all born in England – all but one was educated in England.

When the marriage broke down in 1999, the wife became a permanent resident in England.

In 2003, Mr Agbaje commenced divorce proceedings in Nigeria. The couple’s major assets consisted of two houses in London, both in the husband’s name, and the balance of wealth consisted of properties in Nigeria.

The Nigerian court awarded Mrs Agbaje life interest in a property in Lagos (found by the Nigerian court to have a value of around £86,000) and a lump sum payment in respect of life-long maintenance equivalent to around £21,000. The total assets were valued at around £700,000.

The case heard under English and Welsh family law

Mrs Agbaje sought relief in the English Family law courts under Part III of the MFPA and, with Mr Justice Coleridge presiding, the High Court awarded a lump sum equal to 65% of the proceeds from the sale of one of the London homes on condition that she gave up her interest in the Lagos property. This £275,000 award represented around 39% of the total assets.

Mr Agbaje appealed against this decision and the Court of Appeal overturned Coleridge J’s award, ruling that the High Court had not given sufficient weight to the Nigerian connections in the case.

In June 2009, Mrs Agbaje won the right to take her case to the Supreme Court where the major consideration was the proper approach for courts to take when considering Part III applications for ancillary relief after a foreign family law court has ruled unfavourably on the applicant.

The Court ruled that in light of the purpose of the MFPA, which is to alleviate any adverse consequences of no, or no adequate, financial provision being awarded by a foreign court, applications under Part III should be applied accordingly. English courts should consider relevant factors such as what financial benefit the applicant has already received and whether the applicant has taken advantage of all rights under the applied foreign family law to claim financial relief. Any hardship or injustice resulting from no further award should be taken into consideration, although neither factor is a pre-condition to any award under Part III.

The Supreme Court held that the original decision of the High Court should stand.

Applying for financial relief under Part III with Healys’ family law solicitors in London or Brighton

To apply for relief under Part III the applicant must have the necessary connections to England or Wales and any financial award will depend on all of the circumstances of the case.

Healys is unique in having offices in both central London and Brighton and our family law solicitors regularly represent clients in both the High Court and in local courts across the south east of England and beyond.  We have family department clients in the UK and overseas.

For more information on the service we provide, please contact Catherine Taylor on 01273 669 124 or email catherine.taylor@healys.com in Brighton. For London enquiries please contact Jane Sanders on 020 7822 4107 or email jane.sanders@healys.com