US woman fails to obtain divorce injunction
In the case of T v T the couple, both US citizens, had married in an unspecified state before relocating to London, where they were given indefinite leave to remain. They later had two children.
Before the marriage the couple had signed a premarital agreement (PMA) in the US. This included a section on reaching a financial settlement after divorce. The PMA specified that even if the couple lived in other jurisdictions, they would remain bound by the agreement which was governed by the law of a second US state. Any questions about the PMA’s validity, interpretation or enforceability were to be submitted to arbitration by a trained family lawyer within the same state.
Subsequently the couple split and the husband filed for divorce in the state governing the PMA. The wife went to the courts in London and applied for the temporary injunction to halt his petition, saying the courts in the US state had no jurisdiction.
The husband countered with an application of his own in the English courts, asserting, amongst other grounds, the arbitration clause in the premarital agreement. His lawyers nominated a particular lawyer to serve as arbitrator, but the wife claimed he did not have the right to begin the arbitration process.
The husband then sought a legal order in the US state forcing the wife to begin arbitration.
The wife’s legal team claimed that the husband was pressing ahead with his case while at the same time delaying proceedings in the UK, arguing that an injunction was necessary to preserve a “level playing field” between the parties. She also claimed that she had been pressured into agreeing to the terms of the PMA just days before the wedding had been due to take place.
The husband countered that the terms of the PMA had been carefully negotiated in the run- up to the wedding, even though they had signed it only days before the ceremony, and each party had received separate legal advice.
Nicholas Francis QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, dismissed the woman’s application, saying the woman had failed to establish that England was the natural venue for the proceedings or that she would be at a disadvantage if the proceedings moved forward in the US. The wife would have an opportunity to make her case as to why she should not be bound by the PMA in the US.
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Marilyn Stowe is the senior partner in Stowe Family Law, which has offices in Yorkshire, Cheshire and London. With more than 30 years’ experience handling divorce cases and family law proceedings she is regarded as one of the most formidable and sought after divorce lawyers in the UK. In 2012, Marilyn became one of the first solicitors to qualify as a family law arbitrator.
All persons mentioned in the scenarios are fictitious: details have been deliberately changed in order to protect identities and other confidential circumstances of my clients. All advice and information on this blog including posts written by guest authors, is given only as a general guide to the operation of the law on the date of publication. Readers must place no reliance whatsoever on the content of this blog and must always obtain their own legal advice. Marilyn Stowe, Stowe Family Law LLP and guest authors accept no liability whatsoever arising as a result of reliance upon its content.
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