A sixth of cases before the courts in London are for marriage break ups involving foreign nationals. This has led to London being branded the global divorce capital and the venue of choice for divorces of the international super-rich, or divorce tourists. This has also led to worries that the gap is widening in terms of justice as it is the British taxpayer that is increasingly finding they cannot afford to go to law.
As many as half of the so called ‘big money’ divorces are said to involve people from abroad following succession of increasingly generous pay outs, particularly to wives. So lucrative are the potential rewards that divorcées are moving to Britain to show that they have lived here for a year and can qualify to use the British courts.
There has also been a rise in international couples seeking to protect their wealth with pre-nuptial arrangements. This was fuelled by the Supreme Court ruling last year which upheld the agreement between a German heiress and her former banker husband.
Whilst divorce tourists seek London as the destination, the courts and tribunals handling Public law work are also swamped by immigration and asylum seeker appeals on legal aid, leading to a backlog.
Judges and lawyers recognise and welcome the increase in litigation as it has financial benefits to the country, but it has to be acknowledged that this also means that the courts are increasingly becoming a resource for the super-rich or the publically funded, rather than the ordinary British taxpayer.
Here at Swain & Co we think things have got out of balance: promoting this kind of legal service whilst the Ministry of Justice expects British citizens to seek mediation for divorce and not use the courts. Access to justice should be for all, not just the rich or publically funded cases; this is one of the reasons we now offer fixed fee arrangements for divorce.