More evidence that London is the divorce capital of the world

Another Russian divorce case.

London’s status as the divorce capital of the world was enhanced by the news in July this year that Alexei Golubovich and Olga Mirimskaya have apparently issued proceedings in London’s High Court to deal with their English property, following their divorce in Russia last year. 

They are reported to be the first foreign dynasty in which two consecutive generations have sought the aid of the English courts. Their son, in fact, tried to avoid the English courts and initially succeeded by winning the "race’" to issue divorce proceedings outside England and Wales. The Court of Appeal subsequently held that his wife was entitled to commence financial proceedings here because there was a connection to England (she was living here).  

She succeeded in winning an award of just over £2.8m following a marriage of just 18 months. Commentators were critical that the decision would encourage people to move here to take advantage of the more generous divorce legislation.   

At the centre of this latest row is a mansion on Upper Mall in Chiswick alleged to be worth £6.4m. Both claim it is theirs, although it is currently registered in Mr Golubovich’s name.

In English divorce cases, it does not normally matter in whose name a property is registered. The court has the power to transfer assets from one to the other and the recent Prest case confirmed that if a third party owns property on trust for one spouse, a transfer to the other can be ordered. 

In smaller money cases a court will not normally order a transfer to a spouse if it would financially prejudice the other (e.g. an order that means one party remains liable under the other’s mortgage indefinitely, since this affects their mortgage capacity and prejudices their own ability to rehouse!).  

In cases where the matrimonial home is the largest asset and it is required to meet the needs of the spouse caring for the children, it is common to have a "Mesher" Order so that the property is sold upon specified triggering events, such as when the children attain the age of 18 years or cease full-time education. Where both parties want to retain the matrimonial home and there is sufficient money for one of them to do so, emotions inevitably run high.  

In a divorce case, the judge has the option to order a sale of property and other assets. When a couple are arguing about contents, being told that they face receiving just half the proceeds of sale of their second-hand goods and then having to replace them often leads to a pragmatic approach being adopted by both.

With property, if a sale is ordered potentially either or both of the couple can make an offer. In some cases, the issue can go to sealed bids with both (and any interested third parties) having to make offers by a certain time deadline. This can, in practice, mean one pays significantly over the odds for a property he or she particularly wants. Arguably, if the other wanted it as well, it may make losing out less of a bitter pill to swallow.  

According to press reports, the arguments being run by Mr Golubovich and Mrs Mirimskaya are that each says that it was the intention that the property would be beneficially theirs.  

Documentation will apparently show that initially the house was bought by an offshore company in 2004 and then transferred to Mrs Mirimskaya’s name in 2005.  In 2008 the house was transferred into her husband’s name, but she says it remained the common intention of both of them that she would continue to be the 100 per cent beneficial owner of the property. 

The court will no doubt want to hear the circumstances in which this 2008 transfer took place. It may become relevant that in the latter years, according to media reports, the property was occupied by Mr Golubovich, the couple’s two younger children, niece and mother-in-law, while Mrs Mirimskaya spent most of her time outside the United Kingdom.  

He will apparently insist the 2008 transfer was part of the agreed division of their assets and if the documentation confirms this, it is hard to see on what basis the court would order a transfer back, particularly given the developments with prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.  

Until more information is available about both their cases, it is impossible to predict how this one will develop. In choosing to resolve matters through court as opposed to trying mediation or collaboration, what is certain is that both will spend significant sums on legal costs. Unlike most people, they can afford to do so.  

This piece first appeared on Spear's magazine.

Kirstie Law is a partner at Thomson Snell & Passmore

Another Russian divorce in London. Photograph: Getty Images

This is a story from the team at Spears magazine.

Photo: Getty Images
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What's to be done about racial inequality?

David Cameron's words on equal opportunities are to be welcomed - now for some action, says Sunder Katwala.

David Cameron made the strongest, clearest and most high profile statement about ethnic inequalities and the need to tackle discrimination ever yet offered by a British Prime Minister in his leader’s speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
“Picture this. You’ve graduated with a good degree. You send out your CV far and wide. But you get rejection after rejection. What’s wrong? It’s not the qualifications or the previous experience. It’s just two words at the top: first name, surname. Do you know that in our country today: even if they have exactly the same qualifications, people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names? … That, in 21st century Britain, is disgraceful. We can talk all we want about opportunity, but it’s meaningless unless people are really judged equally”, said Cameron.
While the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, this was a powerfully argued Prime Ministerial intervention – and a particularly well-timed one, for three reasons.

Firstly, the Prime Minister was able to root his case in an all-but-universally accepted appeal for equal opportunities. It will always prove more difficult in practice to put political energy and resources behind efforts to remedy discrimination against a minority of the population unless a convincing fairness case is made that values cherished across our whole society are at stake. Cameron’s argument, that any party which tells itself that it is the party of the ‘fair chance’ and ‘the equal shot’ must have a response when there is such clear evidence of discrimination, should prove persuasive to a Conservative Party that has not seen race inequalities as its natural territory. Cameron argued that the same principles should animate responses to discrimination when it comes to race, gender and social class. Put like that, wanting job interviews to be fair – by eradicating conscious and unconscious patterns of bias wherever possible – would strike most Britons as offering as clear a case of the values of fair play as wanting the best baker to win the Great British Bake-Off on television.
Secondly, Cameron’s intervention comes at a potential "tipping point" moment for fair opportunities across ethnic groups. Traditionally, ethnic discrimination has been discussed primarily through the lens of its impact on the most marginalised. Certainly, persistent gaps in the criminal justice system, mental health provision and unemployment rates remain stark for some minority groups. What has been less noticed is the emergence of a much more complex pattern of opportunity and disadvantage – not least as a consequence of significant ethnic minority progress.

Most strikingly of all, in educational outcomes, historic attainment gaps between ethnic minorities and their white British peers have disappeared over the last decade. In the aggregate, ethnic minorities get better GCSE results on average. Ethnic minority Britons are more likely, not less likely, to be university graduates than their fellow citizens. 

As a result of that progress, Cameron’s intervention comes at a moment of significant potential – but significant risk too. Britain’s ethnic minorities are the youngest and fastest-growing sections of British society. If that educational progress translates into economic success, it will make a significant contribution to the "Great British Take-Off" that the Prime Minister envisions. But if that does not happen, with educational convergence combined with current ‘ethnic penalties’ in employment and income persisting, then that potential could well curdle into frustration that the British promise of equal opportunities is not being kept.  Cameron also mirrored his own language in committing himself to both a ‘fight against extremism’ and a ‘fight against discrimination’: while those are distinct challenges and causes, actively pursuing both tracks simultaneously has the potential, at least, depolarise some debates about responses to extremism  - and so to help deepen the broad social coalitions we need for a more cohesive society too.

Thirdly, Cameron’s challenge could mark an important deepening in the political competition between the major parties on race issues. Many have been struck by the increase in political attention on the centre-right to race issues over the last five to ten years. The focus has been on the politics of representation. By increasing the number of non-white Conservative MPs from two to seventeen since 2005, Cameron has sent a powerful signal that Labour’s traditional claim to be ‘the party of ethnic minorities’ would now be contested. Cameron was again able to celebrate in Manchester several ways in which his Cabinet and Parliamentary benches demonstrate many successful journeys of migrant and minority integration in British society. That might perhaps help to ease the fears, about integration being impossible in an era of higher immigration, which the Home Secretary had articulated the previous day.

So symbolism can matter. But facial diversity is not enough. The politics of ethnic minority opportunity needs to be about more than visits to gurdwaras, diversity nights at the party conference fringes and unveiling statues of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech as Labour leader did include one brief celebratory reference to Britain’s ethnic diversity – “as I travelled the country during the leadership campaign it was wonderful to see the diversity of all the people in our country” – and to Labour bringing in more black, Asian and ethnic minority members - but it did not include any substantial content on discrimination. Tim Farron acknowledged during his leadership campaign that the Liberal Democrats have struggled to get to the starting-line on race and diversity at all. The opposition parties too will no doubt now be challenged to match not just the Prime Minister’s rhetorical commitment to challenging inequalities but also to propose how it could be done in practice.

Non-white Britons expect substance, not just symbolism from all of the parties on race inequalites.  Survation’s large survey of ethnic minority voters for British Future showed the Conservatives winning more ethnic minority support than ever before – but just 29 per cent of non-white respondents were confident that the Conservatives are committed to treating people of every ethnic background equally, while 54 per cent said this of Labour. Respondents were twice as likely to say that the Conservatives needto do more to reach out – and the Prime Minister would seem to be committed to showing that he has got that message.  Moreover, there is evidence that ethnic inclusion could be important in broadening a party’s appeal to other younger, urban and more liberal white voters too – which is why it made sense for this issue to form part of a broader attempt by David Cameron to colonise the broad centre of British politics in his Manchester speech.

But the case for caution is that there has been limited policy attention to ethnic inequalities under the last two governments. Restaurateur Iqbal Wahhab decided to give up his role chairing an ethnic minority taskforce for successive governments, unconvinced there was a political commitment to do much more than convene a talking shop. Lib Dem equalities minister Lynne Featherstone did push the CV discrimination issue – but many Conservatives were sceptical. Cameron’s new commitment may face similar challenges from those whose instinct is to worry that more attention to discrimination or bias in the jobs market will mean more red tape for business.

Labour had a separate race inequalities manifesto in 2015, outside of its main election manifesto, while the Conservative manifesto did not contain significant commitments to racial inequality. The mid-campaign launch in Croydon of a series of race equality pledges showed an increasing awareness of the growing importance of ethnic minority votes - though the fact that they all involved aiming for increases of 20 per cent by 2020 gave them a slightly back-of-the-envelope feel. 

Prime Ministerial commitments have an important agenda-setting function. A generation ago the Stephen Lawrence case opened the eyes of middle England to racist violence and police failures, particularly through the Daily Mail’s persistent challenging of those injustices. A Conservative Prime Minister’s words could similarly make a big difference in the mainstreaming of the issue of inequalities of opportunity. What action should follow words? Between now and next year’s party conference season, that must will now be the test for this Conservative government – and for their political opponents too. 

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.