Law Articles

Foreign court v English court 15/04/2010

The Supreme Court, in the case of Abgaje, has clarified the circumstances in which a court order for financial provision can be made (under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984) where a prior court order has already been made by a foreign court.

Mr and Mrs Abgaje were born in Nigeria. They were married for 38 years and had 5 children, all of whom were born in the UK. Mr and Mrs Abgaje acquired British citizenship in 1972 but spent most of their married life living in Nigeria whilst their children, and the children’s nanny, lived in a property in England which was purchased by Mr Abgaje in 1975. Mr and Mrs Abgaje separated in 1999 and the Mrs Abgaje moved to England where she lived in the parties’ property. Mr Abgaje issued divorce proceedings in Nigeria in 2003 and the Nigerian court awarded the wife a life interest in a property in Lagos (with a capital value of about £86,000) and a lump sum equivalent to about £21,000.

Mrs Abgaje issued proceedings under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 and the High Court ultimately ordered that she receive 65% of the sale proceeds of the property in England, which was equivalent to about £275,000, on the condition that she relinquish her life interest in the Lagos property. The total award made by the High Court represented 39% of the total assets.

The decision in this case is likely to lead to a rise in the number of cases in which those unhappy with divorce awards in foreign jurisdictions will turn to the English courts. The English courts will however need to consider a number of factors before deciding whether or not an order should be made, such as whether the parties have strong ties with the UK, whether the spouse has already received adequate financial provision from the foreign court, as well as a number of other factors.

For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.

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