Estranged wife of expat property tycoon fails in bid to secure UK divorce
The estranged wife of a British property tycoon living in Spain has failed in her bid to have her financial settlement heard in the English courts.
Maria Saward met her 66 year-old husband Paul in Majorca, the Telegraph reports. They married in 2009 and lived in Alicante, but they separated just two years later following a row. Mr Saward is reported to have told his wife that he would not “pay her a penny”.
Mrs Saward returned to England to pursue a divorce settlement, which would be more favourable than under Spanish law, arguing that her husband remained a legal resident of the UK despite living in the Mediterranean country. She obtained a decree nisi divorce in November but this was overturned last year by Judge Lesley Newton.
Mrs Saward argued that her former husband maintained substantial personal ties to his home city of Southampton – the majority of his property portfolio is also located in the area. She also claimed he had made disparaging remarks about Spain.
But Judge Newton said the evidence suggested his “permanent and habitual fixed centre of interests” was Spain and so the English courts had no jurisdiction. She said:
“Although the husband may well have expressed a dislike of Spain in forceful terms on many occasions, and whilst he may have contemplated a return to the UK, he had made no concrete plans to do so.”
She cited a letter written by Paul Saward while living on his yacht in Southampton harbour in June 2011. This read:
“I have no plans of ever moving back here, I could not put up with the weather … only two days left and I will be home.”
Mrs Saward appealed the ruling but was equally unsuccessful. Sitting in the Court of Appeal earlier today Lady Justice Black declared:
“The most that might be said is that the judge viewed the facts in some way from the wrong end of the telescope, looking at residency rather than interests. However there is no prospect of convincing this court that the judge was wrong.”
Speaking outside the court, Mrs Saward, outside court, said: “I’m very upset. This marriage ruined my life completely. As far as I know the court’s decision means I’m now still married. I don’t know whether my husband has undertaken divorce proceedings in Spain or not.”
The couple’s divorce will now proceed in Spain, where she claims, all their assets were in her estranged husband’s name.
“In the region where we live in Spain, when a couple split up any property held in joint names is split equally whether they are married or not. But we had nothing in joint names, it was all in his name, even though we were husband and wife.At this moment I have no income; all my savings were invested in the new house we bought in Spain. Now I have nothing.”
Photo of Alicante by Juan J. Martínez via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence
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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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