Why London Is the Place to Ditch Your Billionaire; the Age of Austerity Is Seeing Divorce Lawyers Report a Surprise Surge of New Clients, and the Capital Is Where Many Wives Want to Seal the Split. Jonathan Prynn Reports
Byline: Jonathan Prynn
LIKE almost all forms of human activity, divorce has its season.
If the favoured time of the year for weddings is late spring and early summer, for the sadder end of the matrimonial journey it is September and January. Why? Because, according to received wisdom, couples are reluctant to initiate the final break-up while they are on holiday with the children and often use a family break as "a last-chance saloon" to rescue a failing marriage.
So it has come as something of a pleasant surprise to London's leading divorce specialists to see a surge in new clients at the time of year when they would normally expect to be quiet.
The first stirrings of economic recovery might be one factor, says Sandra Davis, head of the family law department at Mishcon de Reya, with wives deciding to strike while the iron's hot and their husbands' wealth once again worth going for after the recession.
Another factor could be fears of a double-dip recession or a clampdown in banker bonuses that will again reduce the available pot in months to come.
This has also come against a backdrop of publicity for ever more spectacular hearings in recent weeks as many marriages put together in the years of bounty fall apart in the era of austerity.
Those cases have supported London's reputation as "the divorce capital of the world", although recent judgments suggest things might be changing. But while London still enjoys a unique status on the global divorce circuit, couples will rack up millions of pounds in legal fees simply to establish the jurisdiction for their divorce hearing.
As Frank Arndt, who heads the international departments at Stowe Family Law, puts it: "We have clients ringing from all over the world asking what the situation is. If it's the wife, they want London, if it's the husband, they want to avoid London at all costs."
This was certainly the case in the saga of wealthy Russian couple Ilya and Elena Golubovich, 24 and 26 respectively, who were married in Italy but lived for a time in South Kensington. When their marriage broke down last year the couple embarked on what was described in court as a "crude race", with Mrs Golubovich wanting to get divorced in London whereas her husband filed his petition in Moscow.
The couple shadow-boxed over jurisdiction like a pair of prizefighters, while the legal meter ticked up to [pounds sterling]2.2 million. Finally, in the Court of Appeal last month, Mr Golubovich won the day and will have his divorce pronounced in Moscow.
This highly remunerative cottage -- or perhaps mansion -- industry known as "forum shopping" dates back to the White v White decision in the House of Lords in 2000. This established the basic principle that wealth built up during the course of a marriage should be split 50-50, regardless of who the main breadwinner had been.
Four years later, the Parlour v Parlour case involving the Arsenal and England footballer Ray Parlour also gave divorced wives (or husbands, in the rare cases where the woman is the big earner) the right to a share of future earnings.
For wives it means heading for the London High Court is a no-brainer. Husbands, on the other hand, are now wising up to the dangers of allowing their divorces to be heard in London. There are stories of wealthy international businessmen with the D-word in their minds persuading wives to live in Scotland.
Imagine the conversation: "Darling, you'll love it up there, we can buy a castle, the air is clean, the schools are wonderful.
And just think of the scenery."
All very persuasive but when divorce comes it will be settled under Scottish law, which usually allows only a modest capital payment and maintenance for just three years.
Possibly the biggest divorce case seen in London in recent weeks involved the Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky. It is also one of the most straightforward. …