Divorce ruling significant for wealthy couples

The Supreme Court ruling in the divorce case involving an English wife and Nigerian oil tycoon could have significant implications for separating wealthy couples in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Michael and Yasmin Prest married in 1993, and spent most of their time in London, while also owning properties in Nigeria and the Caribbean. When the couple separated Mr Prest estimated his wealth to be around £48m, but his wife calculated it to be significantly more.

A dispute emerged involving seven properties worth millions of pounds, with Mr Prest contending that they belonged to off-shore companies, and not to him personally. His divorce solicitors therefore argued that the properties should not be considered when dividing the couples assets. The High Court rejected Mr Prest's argument and ordered that the properties be transferred to his wife, but that decision was overruled by the Court of Appeal.

The case was then finally taken to the highest authority, the Supreme Court. The seven judges held unanimously in favour of Mrs Prest, saying the properties were being held on trust for Mr Prest by the companies. Lord Sumpton criticised Mr Prest's "persistent obstruction, obfuscation and deceit" about his wealth.

The decision will have significant implications for future wealthy couples going through a divorce, and family law solicitors in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK will be keen to see how this ruling is applied in future cases.

If you require legal advice from a divorce solicitor in Northern Ireland contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast by calling 0800 840 1363.

Or to read more legal information about divorce in Northern Ireland click here.