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Director - Head of London Team
Specialism: Lawyers Family and Matrimonial
Company: Family Law Partners
Location: London, England
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Average client size: £5 million - £25 million
Fixed fee offering: No
Number of offices globally: 1-5
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Defending an internet entrepreneur against child maintenance claims by his former partner
I represented the CEO and majority shareholder of one of the UK’s fastest growing technology companies in a claim by his former partner for financial provision in respect of their children, including a housing fund, top-up maintenance and a school fees order.
As we were approaching a negotiated settlement, the ex-partner raised a new claim in respect of my client’s shares, which were potentially his most valuable assets by far. She alleged that the company had been started using joint funds and that this business, together with their property rental portfolio, had been operated as an equal partnership such that she was beneficially entitled to half his shares (and therefore a significant portion of the technology company).
I worked closely with our commercial litigation team to investigate this assertion and force the partner to particularise and substantiate her claim, which we were then able to discredit. Our main priority became to convince the court and the ex-partner that any claim against the shares needed to be brought in separate proceedings, which would not only put her under unacceptable litigation risk but would also put her original claim on hold for a significant period of time.
We were ultimately able to convince our client’s partner to abandon her claim against the shares and settle her children claim with a declaration that she had no interest in the shares and could make no future claim either against the shares or against the company. The settlement also ensured that no new housing claim can be made in the future even if our client one day realises significant capital on a future IPO.
Representing a banker’s wife in international divorce and child abduction proceedings
I represented the wife of a French banker in divorce and child abduction proceedings. The parties had spent their entire marriage in the UK until they moved to France for the husband’s new job. Within two months my client discovered that her husband had been having an affair and returned with the children to the UK.
The husband had already filed a divorce petition in France and Hague Convention proceedings to return the children to France by the time we were instructed. We started by obtaining occupation and non-molestation orders against the husband to ensure that my client was safe and protected, as the husband had started coming to the family home in London and behaving threateningly. We then defended his child abduction application and cross-applied for divorce and financial orders on the basis that neither my client nor the children had acquired habitual residence in France during the two months that they had been there.
We successfully defended the child abduction proceedings in the High Court with the judge agreeing that the children had not acquired habitual residence in France. The husband was granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal, but we were able to negotiate an agreement that the wife and children would remain in the UK before that appeal was heard.
We also worked closely with the wife’s French lawyers to negotiate a financial settlement that would be fair in both England and France, ensuring that there were no tax complications in relation to the UK assets if the settlement was finalised under French law.
Representing a wife in relation to her claims for a share of a lucrative family business and defending her against accusations of parental alienation
My client and her husband were equal shareholders in a successful construction business, together with another couple. My client and the children were still struggling to come to terms with the fact that the husband had moved out and started another family, with the eldest child taking the breakdown particularly hard. The husband refused to accept any responsibility for the child's reaction and accused my client of parental alienation. My client argued that her earning capacity was limited by her need to be home to support the child when he was particularly unwell.
The husband had been drawing substantial sums from the company (including keeping for himself the dividends on the wife's shares) and generally ignored his duty to provide full and frank financial disclosure to the court. He was dismissive of the company valuation prepared by the jointly instructed expert. In addition to this, the tax treatment of the shares was complicated and there was a risk of significant further taxes in the future if the company's restructuring were to be challenged by HMRC.
We succeeded in convincing the husband to withdraw his Children Act application by bringing in an Independent Social Worker whose evidence showed that my client had not been alienating the children. Furthermore we were finally able to bring the husband to the negotiating table by defending his application to adduce additional experts to challenge the company and property valuations; putting pressure on him to settle rather than pursue the matter to a final hearing. We appointed a senior barrister to adjudicate a private FDR hearing, which allowed the parties to engage in a proper review of the various settlement options available to them and the pros and cons of each. Ultimately we were able to agree a settlement under which my client kept 75% of the non-business assets and would be bought out of her shares in the company over a period of five years.