Landmark London divorce ruling on Prest v Petrodel

10th March 2015 by


Once in a while, a court ruling paves the way for family lawyers to take guidance and profound interpretation of the law from the highest ranked judges in the land. In June 2013, the London divorce of Yasmin and Michael Prest created one such Supreme Court decision, as the judges unanimously allowed the appeal of Mrs Prest in the long-running, high-value, financial-remedy claim.

Mrs Prest filed for divorce from her husband of 15 years in March 2003, but Mr Prest disputed her financial settlement claim based on the premise that certain properties and assets could not be transferred as they belonged ostensibly to other parties. In the first instance, the 2011 ruling of Mr Justice Moylan, ordered the Nigerian-born founder of Petrodel Resources to pay a settlement of £17.5million.

Petrodel appealed and, in October 2012, the Court of Appeal upheld the claim. At the time, the decision prompted London divorce solicitors and family lawyers, UK-wide, to describe the ruling as a “cheat’s charter” for high-net-worth husbands seeking to escape their financial obligations to wives and children.

In June 2013, Mrs Prest took her case to the Supreme Court for one last judgment. Lord Sumpton’s leading judgment, concurred with by Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Mance and Lord Walker, held that the disputed properties were indeed held in trust for Mr Prest and were, therefore, assets to which he was “entitled”. Thus, Mrs Prest should receive appropriate financial benefit.

Family lawyers who had argued that the case was being unfairly heard using corporate law said the Supreme Court’s ruling would now close the gap somewhat between the family courts and the chancery division in establishing the strength and weaknesses of the “corporate veil”, which allowed husbands to hide assets from a potential financial settlement on divorce.

London divorce solicitors for Mrs Prest said that the decision was important as it showed courts would look closely at the circumstances of such complex claims and would not be easily misled. Lord Sumpton’s judgment gives family courts the entitlement to consider, using their experience, the probability that wealthy businessman husbands who are uncommunicative about their wealth, may well be concealing assets, and that property trusts of matrimonial homes may not necessarily create non-entitlement to the husband in the event of required transference.

Healys London divorce lawyers for complex and high-value financial claims on divorce

To discuss making a claim for financial remedy on divorce, or if you wish to defend a claim, why not speak to Healys divorce lawyers in London.

While our solicitors are members of Resolution and will, wherever possible, uphold their ethos of conciliatory divorce negotiations, we believe that when things get tough, we have the full legal expertise and resources to offer forceful representation through the court system.

We offer direction, clarity and commitment to high-value divorce settlement claims, so, for more information and advice, please call our London or Brighton family law teams today.