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Specialism: Lawyers Family and Matrimonial
Company: Hunters Inc May May & Merrimans
Location: London, England
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Hazel acts for Mrs C, a US national with UK residence. Her husband Mr C is also a US national with UK residence. They have four children, three of whom are in tertiary education (two in the US, one in the UK) and the fourth is in primary education in the UK. They have been married for thirty years.
During the marriage but before the children were born, Mr C qualified as an accountant in the US. Mrs C was the sole breadwinner, and paid for him to go to college as well as paying all household bills. Since qualifying, Mr C's career has blossomed, which is a main reason behind their move from the US to the UK, to pursue his responsibilities in Europe and the Middle East.
Mr C suddenly left the family home in 2010, without any forewarning. Mrs C subsequently learned he had moved in to live with a junior accountant in his firm. Divorce was filed by Mr C without warning to Mrs C, and he secured English jurisdiction for the financial proceedings.
There are considerable trust interests in the family on Mrs C's side, within discretionary trusts (based offshore, which are pre-marital assets) where she and the children have had considerable distributions over the years. Mr C had no capital behind him when coming into the marriage. The majority of the marital assets can be attributed to his earnings. He continues to earn well and to be paid considerable bonuses each year.
The couple are now in their mid-fifties. Mr C says he will retire in the next three years. Mrs C says she has no earning capacity. Disclosure has been a real difficulty with the trustees refusing to submit to the English court's jurisdiction.
There have been five court hearings so far and experienced counsel (including a QC on behalf of Mr C) have been engaged at great expense. There has been a private arbitration hearing on the issue of the earning capacity of each of Mr C and Mrs C (the finding was that Mrs C has almost no earning capacity and there are sufficient asset to capitalise her income needs generously interpreted). US and UK tax lawyers and accountants have given evidence for each spouse. Pensions advisers in the US and UK have given evidence about Mr C's substantial pensions in both jurisdictions.
The outcome is as yet uncertain. Concessions made by Mr C mean that there has been a considerable narrowing of issues to be tried. The remaining points concern the degree of mixing of pre-marital assets with those created in the marriage, and capital and housing needs for each party. Before separation, they had the use of four properties, in the US, UK, Switzerland and Bahamas.