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.

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Theresa May’s Brexit speech is Angela Merkel’s victory – here’s why

The Germans coined the word “merkeln to describe their Chancellor’s approach to negotiations. 

It is a measure of Britain’s weak position that Theresa May accepts Angela Merkel’s ultimatum even before the Brexit negotiations have formally started

The British Prime Minister blinked first when she presented her plan for Brexit Tuesday morning. After months of repeating the tautological mantra that “Brexit means Brexit”, she finally specified her position when she essentially proposed that Britain should leave the internal market for goods, services and people, which had been so championed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. 

By accepting that the “UK will be outside” and that there can be “no half-way house”, Theresa May has essentially caved in before the negotiations have begun.

At her meeting with May in July last year, the German Chancellor stated her ultimatum that there could be no “Rosinenpickerei” – the German equivalent of cherry picking. Merkel stated that Britain was not free to choose. That is still her position.

Back then, May was still battling for access to the internal market. It is a measure of how much her position has weakened that the Prime Minister has been forced to accept that Britain will have to leave the single market.

For those who have followed Merkel in her eleven years as German Kanzlerin there is sense of déjà vu about all this.  In negotiations over the Greek debt in 2011 and in 2015, as well as in her negotiations with German banks, in the wake of the global clash in 2008, Merkel played a waiting game; she let others reveal their hands first. The Germans even coined the word "merkeln", to describe the Chancellor’s favoured approach to negotiations.

Unlike other politicians, Frau Merkel is known for her careful analysis, behind-the-scene diplomacy and her determination to pursue German interests. All these are evident in the Brexit negotiations even before they have started.

Much has been made of US President-Elect Donald Trump’s offer to do a trade deal with Britain “very quickly” (as well as bad-mouthing Merkel). In the greater scheme of things, such a deal – should it come – will amount to very little. The UK’s exports to the EU were valued at £223.3bn in 2015 – roughly five times as much as our exports to the United States. 

But more importantly, Britain’s main export is services. It constitutes 79 per cent of the economy, according to the Office of National Statistics. Without access to the single market for services, and without free movement of skilled workers, the financial sector will have a strong incentive to move to the European mainland.

This is Germany’s gain. There is a general consensus that many banks are ready to move if Britain quits the single market, and Frankfurt is an obvious destination.

In an election year, this is welcome news for Merkel. That the British Prime Minister voluntarily gives up the access to the internal market is a boon for the German Chancellor and solves several of her problems. 

May’s acceptance that Britain will not be in the single market shows that no country is able to secure a better deal outside the EU. This will deter other countries from following the UK’s example. 

Moreover, securing a deal that will make Frankfurt the financial centre in Europe will give Merkel a political boost, and will take focus away from other issues such as immigration.

Despite the rise of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party, the largely proportional electoral system in Germany will all but guarantee that the current coalition government continues after the elections to the Bundestag in September.

Before the referendum in June last year, Brexiteers published a poster with the mildly xenophobic message "Halt ze German advance". By essentially caving in to Merkel’s demands before these have been expressly stated, Mrs May will strengthen Germany at Britain’s expense. 

Perhaps, the German word schadenfreude comes to mind?

Matthew Qvortrup is author of the book Angela Merkel: Europe’s Most Influential Leader published by Duckworth, and professor of applied political science at Coventry University.