Allegations of “Divorce Tourism”

3 November 2011

The Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal by a husband to keep his divorce ‘out of England’.

A Greek shipping magnate, Pyrros Vardinoyannis, and his Brazilian wife Elizabeth, met in St Tropez and began married life in London before moving to Los Angeles, to Sao Paulo and then in 2008 returning to London and buying a family home in Kensington. The husband then ‘resided’ in Switzerland for ‘tax reasons’. In 2010 Elizabeth issued a Divorce Petition in London. Her husband, doubtless concerned by the prospect of a £multi-million divorce order from the English court, objected to the Divorce and issued his own Petition in Greece alleging that his wife had not been resident in England for 12 months prior to the presentation of her Petition and so should not be allowed to divorce him here. The High Court disagreed. The Judge acknowledged that the family clearly lived a jet set lifestyle (described as being the “modern version of the 18th-century Grand Tour”) but felt that, ultimately, the wife was resident here throughout the relevant period even if she wasn’t physically present here. (Apparently there had been extended breaks to Crete and Switzerland). It was judged that London was her base (to the extent that she had one). They, he said, were “a multinational family” but that did not mean that the wife was unable to claim England as being her home and so invite the English courts to deal with her divorce.

The Husband appealed to the Court of Appeal (such was his fear of what an English divorce settlement might look like) but the Court of Appeal upheld the wife’s position and so the divorce will proceed in London.

Apparently close to £1million has already been spent by the parties thus far - an indication of the extent to which wealthy husbands will battle to avoid the English divorce courts.

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