Divorced wife wins record £53 million settlement from ‘puppet master’ husband

Royal Courts of Justice 4A 48 year-old Russian woman has been awarded a £53 million divorce settlement by the High Court, an award thought to the highest to date in a contested divorce.

The case of M v M and Yuri Barkov and others concerned an unnamed couple who met in 1987 while working in a factory. They married in Russia in 1991, and had two children together, now aged 15 and 19. The family moved to England in 2005.

The husband’s business ventures proved highly successful after the marriage and the couple soon became wealthy, buying properties in Russia and later in England, including a home in London worth almost £4 million.

The couple separated in 2008 and the wife filed for divorce the following year in Russia. However, after realising the case could be dealt with by the English courts, the wife then applied for financial relief in this country, under part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984, which governs such applications after a divorce abroad.

It proved to be an expensive battle for her share of the family fortune. The wife was forced to spend £1.4 million tracking down her husband’s assets.

Sitting the High Court earlier this week, Mrs Justice King said:

“The case has been a fantastic charade with the husband a shady puppet master in the background. At fabulous cost – £1.4m and counting – those representing the wife have crossed and re-crossed the globe in an attempt to trace the husband’s assets, every penny of which has been acquired during the marriage.”

The husband was remote and “elusive” throughout the hearing. The judge noted:

“He has neither attended hearings nor complied with orders of the Court; he is in contempt many times over.”

The husband ‘s  wealth was estimated at £107 million, of which the majority – approximately £91.6 million – is tied up in properties in England and Russia.

Mrs Justice King awarded the wife precisely half, including a lump sum payment of £38 million and the couple’s UK properties. The couple’s children were also granted payments of £20,000 per year until they finished university.

The judge declared:

“The wife is a fully contributing wife, all the wealth was created during the course of a substantial marriage of 17 years. The starting point must be that the assets are shared equally. The husband has failed, whether in writing or by attending court to make any submissions to the contrary.”

The judge expressed concerns about enforcement of the lump sum award, but said the legal principle that assets should be shared equally on divorce must be upheld.

“In my judgment this is a case where, notwithstanding the formidable challenges for the wife in enforcing a lump sum order, it would be iniquitous if the husband was permitted, by virtue of his appalling litigation misconduct, to drive the court into an order which is substantially less than that which by virtue of the sharing principle, she would otherwise receive.”

Photo of the Royal Courts of Justice by Tony Hadnutt via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence 

 

 

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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4 comments

Luke - August 20, 2013 at 3:53am

I have to ask the question that I think is the ‘elephant in the room’ – what part did the wife have in building this empire ? It appears to be basically none, so why should she get so much of all this if she played no part ?

I’m not saying that she should not end up a multi-millionaire – that’s a given, but I don’t see why she gets £53m. I think the assumption that that is her right is just plain wrong. If I was married to a woman that built such an empire without my help there is no way that I would be so grasping as to consider so much as my right, I would regard trying for that in court as outrageous.

I think Mrs Justice King is very wrong to think that this is fair – but she does so the message is clear – NO rational man should EVER get married, the courts have a permanent sense of reason malfunction on this in my opinion…

Of course the whole legal system is getting rich in this case – I wonder if that plays a part in their thinking – surely not :-)

michelle jatta - August 22, 2013 at 3:48pm

Of course she helped husband. I was married 14 years gave up work to have his children. Put my husbands needs before my needs. I cooked cleaned ironed his clothes. Made sure he had paperwork sorted for work. I made sure he was looked after so he could work. I gave up university and was going to have a good job. He would not have his fortune if i did not work behind the scenes. So why should he have kept all his fortune. I now am too old to have the career i wanted in air traffic control

Luke - August 26, 2013 at 6:07pm

Well it depends what the non-earning spouse wants, if your husband built a fortune and you want some of it then yes of course, but if you want half of it then I strongly disagree.

Are you seriously suggesting that for 14 years you could do nothing other than raise children (who are at school all day after the age of 5) and cook and clean and iron ? Many years ago it might have been more justifiable, but with labour saving devices nowadays that is not really credible.

In 14 years there is plenty of time to study and take qualifications (e.g. an Open University Degree), start up an internet business – whatever you like. If he’s making so much money you can even afford hired help if it is stopping you get on (even though I don’t think it generally would be for most people).

Making serious money is b****y difficult – looking to take half of it is unreasonable in my view.

Women want to be treated equally and they have every right to that – and part of that is being accountable for their actions – but when it comes to divorce so many in my view still seem to want to be ‘kept’ women. This can apply to men too on the occasions when the roles are reversed, people seem to somehow justify to themselves taking vast fortunes that they have had very little input in generating.

Andrew - October 9, 2013 at 5:59pm

Now let her enforce it, as Andrew Jackson said!

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