Sydney Mitchell is recognised in the Top Tier of the Legal 500 and ‘punches above its weight’ for contentious and non-contentious matters. The firm is recognised for thoroughness and good commercial approach to cases.

Sydney Mitchell has again been recognised as a Tier 1 firm for its Contentious Wills and Probate work; handling a variety of high-value complex cases.

In total the firm has obtained recommendations in 13 areas of legal practice; Contentious Probate, Commercial Litigation, Debt Recovery, Insolvency and Corporate Recovery, Employment, Clinical Negligence, Personal Injury, Professional Negligence, Family, Personal Tax, Trusts and Probate, Health, Commercial Property and Property Litigation.

The firm’s clients have made some excellent comments on the work undertaken by the legal teams.

Div Singh, Senior Partner, Sydney Mitchell commented:

We have an excellent result again this year with the firm maintaining its ranking in Tier 1 for our Contentious Probate work.

We were especially pleased for some of our young solicitors Hayley–Jo Lockley and Preena Lal who have been recognised for their hard work and dedication. Our clients and referrers have made fantastic comments on the work we have undertaken including…

‘One of the strongest of the smaller city centre firms in commercial litigation’;  ‘experienced and sensible with sound judgement and a particular skill at negotiating very good deals…; ‘superstar and a joy to work with’; ‘very tenacious …’ ‘attention to detail and thorough approach’.

What more can you ask for than recommendations from your clients for the excellent service received for work undertaken by our legal teams.

The joint heads of the Dispute Resolution team, Dean Parnell and Kamal Majevadia were recognised for their high-value and complex claims undertaken with Dean recognised for his “technical knowledge that is second to none and is a solicitor you would want on your side’ and Kamal ‘… is very thorough and applies a good commercial approach to his cases’.

Leading Midlands Law firm Sydney Mitchell is ranked in 13 Legal 500 categories and has won Birmingham Law Firm of the Year 4 times in the last 9 years.

A full breakdown of the Sydney Mitchell recommendations and comments on Legal 500 are shown below.

West Midlands: Dispute resolution

Commercial litigation: Birmingham

Commercial litigation: Birmingham - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP

Sydney Mitchell LLP is ‘one of the strongest of the smaller city centre firms in commercial litigation’, and thrives under the leadership of Dean Parnell, who is ‘very experienced and sensible, with sound judgement and a particular skill at negotiating very good deals for his clients’. Parnell is an experienced mediator and is also qualified to act as a supervising solicitor for search orders. The practice represented clients in a number of multimillion-pound claims and noted an increase in injunctive relief, SWAP claims, shareholder disputes and civil fraud. Kamal Majevadia, who co-heads the team with Parnell, has ‘good technical knowledge and is particularly good at insolvency, restructuring and financial professional negligence cases’.

Debt recovery

Debt recovery - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s ‘very efficient’ team has a ‘light touch’ and is led by Kamal Majevadia, who is ‘adept at spotting the wood for the trees and combines this with a user-friendly sense of humour for very experienced officeholders such as liquidators, who are his staple clients’. Majevadia’s recent caseload includes acting on behalf of the administrators of Blakemores in relation to the collection of several large debts from former clients. Another name to note is insolvency specialist Leanne Schneider-Rose, who leads on debt recovery matters for business lenders such as AIB Group (UK) and West Bromwich Commercial. The practice also acts for secondary lenders on mortgage repossessions.

West Midlands: Finance

Insolvency and corporate recovery

Insolvency and corporate recovery - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s practice offers ‘exceptional value for money’ and is also noted for its ability to ‘quickly grasp the instruction and work with the officeholder to implement (and refine as necessary) the strategy’. Practice head Leanne Schneider-Rose has a loyal following of lenders and insolvency practitioners, such as AIB Group and Smith & Williamson, and wins praise for her ‘attention to detail and thorough approach’. In one example, Schneider-Rose acted for a bankrupt in the Court of Appeal in a claim against receivers for breach of duty regarding a property owned by the bankrupt.

West Midlands: Human resources

Employment

Employment - ranked: tier 5

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s diverse practice ‘punches above its weight’. The practice acts for employers and individuals in contentious and non-contentious matters, and Birmingham-based team head Dean Parnell attracts praise for his ability to ‘focus on solutions rather than conflict for the sake of it’. He represented an individual in a complex disability discrimination and victimisation claim against their employer, as well as a shareholder who was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct following a health and safety audit. Jade Linton is ‘a superstar and a joy to work with’; she acted for an individual in sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010, which was complicated by the fact the claimant and respondent had previously been in a relationship. She also handled a whistleblowing claim brought by a high-ranked executive whose employment was terminated due to suspicions of fraudulent activity. Associate Tina Chander left the firm to join Wright Hassall LLP.

West Midlands: Insurance

Clinical negligence: claimant

Clinical negligence: claimant - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP is ‘a small firm that really punches above its weight’, and clients rate it for ‘having the skills and knowledge to handle a vast array of negligence and personal injury matters’. Mike Sutton leads the clinical negligence practice; he ‘has an excellent manner with clients’ and his experience ‘allows him to focus on the key issues in the early stages of a case’. Sutton is representing the wife of a man who died of a pulmonary embolism following the hospital’s alleged failure to appropriately treat him during the post-operative recovery period. Stephen Jesson acted for a claimant seeking compensation in light of the alleged delay in diagnosis of cancer, and is acting in a group claim filed against a consultant urological surgeon for alleged improper treatment of prostate cancer.

Next generation lawyers

Stephen Jesson - Sydney Mitchell LLP

Personal injury: claimant

Personal injury: claimant - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP acts for local clients on a wide range of personal injury work – much of which consists of multi-track claims – and ‘has a strong reputation in the West Midlands’. Team leader and ‘very tenacious lawyer’ Mike Sutton ‘does not shy away from difficult, complicated or messy cases’; he recently represented a man who suffered career-ending injuries following an accident at work, and acted on behalf of the family and financial dependents of a man killed by careless driving. Other key names include Stephen Jesson, who assisted an elderly client in her claim against a restaurant which allegedly failed to provide the duty owed by the manager to a disabled customer.

Professional negligence

Professional negligence - ranked: tier 4

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP handles high-value and complex claims regarding property and banking issues for clients such as Hertford Solutions and West Bromwich Building Society. The ‘commercially astuteDean Parnell has ‘technical knowledge that is second to none and is a solicitor you would want on your side’. He leads the practice with Kamal Majevadia, who is singled out for insolvency, restructuring and financial cases. Assistant solicitor Sundeep Bilkhu supports the partners with regards to negligence claims against solicitors and construction professionals, and recently represented a professional client in a case against his governing body for allegedly failing to adequately represent him in court resulting in significant liability costs. The ‘hardworking and responsive’ Preena Lal is also recommended.

West Midlands: Private client

Contentious trusts and probate

Contentious trusts and probate - ranked: tier 1

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s contentious trusts and probate team is based in Shirley and demonstrates ‘sound knowledge of the law, which it applies for the practical benefit of the client’. The team, led by Kamal Majevadia (who ‘is very thorough and applies a good commercial approach to his cases’) handled an Inheritance Act dispute in which a significant portion of the assets was held overseas. Solicitor Hayley-Jo Lockley supported the team in obtaining a grant of probate, forcing the removal of caveat and removing an individual from the deceased’s property, and led on the advice on the recovery of monies due to a client as per the deceased’s will. Tracy Creed is also a key contact.

Family: Birmingham
Family: Birmingham - ranked: tier 3

 

Sydney Mitchell LLP

At Sydney Mitchell LLP, Karen Moores leads the firm’s family team alongside Mauro Vinti, who works out of the Shirley office. The partners are supported by legal executive Jayne Gregg, who is ‘very positive and firm with her advice’. Recently, the team represented clients in the Birmingham family court in connection with financial remedy and child arrangement proceedings. Solicitor Teresa Mannion joined the firm in Shirley from Alsters Kelley LLP...

Personal tax, trusts and probate

Personal tax, trusts and probate - ranked: tier 2

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s clients find the wills, trusts and probate team, led by Tracy Creed, to be ‘extremely professional and efficient in all engagements and dealings’. The practice has substantial experience acting on behalf of vulnerable elderly clients in connection with care work and funding. Solicitor Ravinder Sandhu (whose ‘knowledge in this field is wide and deep’) recently assisted a client with the removal of an executor from an estate, and handled the administration of an estate according to a will, which was complicated by unclear paternity links and genealogical evidence. Clients also recommend ‘very good and helpful’ solicitor Nicholas Bennett, who is based in Shirley and acted for clients with regards to locating missing wills and applications for grants of probate.

West Midlands: Public sector

Health

Health - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmigham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s public-sector healthcare practice is headed by Fahmida Ismail in Birmingham, closely supported by consultant Tony Harris, who splits his time between Birmingham and Shirley and acted for a retiring senior partner with regards to the cancellation of his GMS contract and the negotiation of his retirement agreement. Areas of expertise include advising on sales, acquisition and mergers of GP practices, partnership disputes, and LIFT and non-LIFT projects. Harris and Ismail recently advised on the changes to partnership agreements in the context of retiring and incoming partners and the re-mortgaging of freehold surgery premises through a complex borrowing scheme requiring safeguarding and indemnity clauses to protect each individual partner. In another mandate, Ismail oversaw the retirement of a GP partner who wished to remain an owner of the leasehold premises. Associates Stewart Coles and Roy Colaba recently represented a GP partnership in connection with the lease of its surgery premises, while Dean Parnell handled a commercial dispute between dentists working in the same practice where the relationship had completely broken down but a fee-sharing agreement remained.

West Midlands: Real estate

Commercial property: Birmingham

Commercial property: Birmingham - ranked: tier 5

Sydney Mitchell LLP

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s team includes the ‘knowledgeable, prompt and efficientStewart Coles, who has particular expertise in dealing with property transactions involving pension schemes, and regularly acts on behalf of SIPPs and SSASs on the purchase, sale and leasing of commercial premises. Coles also represents clients in the retail and hospitality sectors and in 2016 he advised investors on a number of hotel acquisitions. Head of practice Div Singh and finance specialist Fahmida Ismail are the other main contacts.

Property litigation

Property litigation - ranked: tier 6

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

At Sydney Mitchell LLP, senior solicitor Sundeep Bilkhu is a ‘good driving force’ for cases and continued to be particularly active in landlord and tenant issues for lenders and receivers: Bilkhu represented Hertford Solutions in enforcing a possession order against a tenant in occupation, and also acted for a receiver in obtaining vacant possession of a property following the borrower’s default of a legal charge. In other highlights, the team is defending Property Link Midlands in a claim alleging breach of a landlord repair covenant in a lease. Kamal Majevadia heads the practice.


 

21 lawyers are recommended in The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2017 editorial (listed below)

WEST MIDLANDS

Dispute resolution - Commercial litigation - Birmingham
- Dean Parnell
- Kamal Majevadia

Dispute resolution - Debt recovery
- Kamal Majevadia
- Leanne Schneider-Rose

Finance - Insolvency and corporate recovery
- Leanne Schneider-Rose

Human resources - Employment
- Dean Parnell
- Jade Linton

Insurance - Clinical negligence - claimant
- Mike Sutton
- Stephen Jesson

Insurance - Personal injury - claimant
- Mike Sutton
- Stephen Jesson

Insurance - Professional negligence
- Dean Parnell
- Kamal Majevadia
- Preena Lal
- Sundeep Bilkhu

Private client - Contentious trusts and probate
- Hayley-Jo Lockley
- Kamal Majevadia
- Tracy Creed

Private client - Family - Elsewhere in the West Midlands
- Jayne Gregg
- Karen Moores
- Mauro Vinti
- Teresa Mannion

Private client - Personal tax, trusts and probate
- Nicholas Bennett
- Ravinder Sandhu
- Tracy Creed

Public sector - Health
- Dean Parnell
- Fahmida Ismail
- Roy Colaba
- Stewart Coles
- Tony Harris

Real estate - Commercial property - Birmingham
- Div Singh
- Fahmida Ismail
- Stewart Coles

Real estate - Property litigation
- Kamal Majevadia
- Sundeep Bilkhu

Going abroad on holiday or to live is becoming a common occurrence for many children. Parents may be offered positions abroad, either for a specific time or with endless possibilities of a permanent move. Likewise, grandparents may have chosen to move to a warm climate with a more relaxed way of life and promises of frequent long holidays for their family.

Although these changes can be viewed with a mixture of excitement and fear, if both parents agree, then their children can explore new vistas.

However, if the parents are no longer residing together there are many issues which may arise that need to be addressed. Karen Moores, family law solicitor explains the legal implications of taking your children abroad if you are divorced or separated.

Taking a child on holiday

The necessity to obtain permission to take a child out of the UK is not commonly known. It often depends on what Children Act Orders have been made, if any, and applies whether it is a day trip to France, a fortnight to Florida or the whole of the school holidays with relatives in Pakistan.

Consideration should first of all be given as to who has parental responsibility. If both parents have parental responsibility and there are no Child Arrangement orders (residence orders) or other restrictions in place, then neither can take the child on holiday outside the United Kingdom without the written consent of the other parent or any other party with parental responsibility. If consent is refused, an application to the Court will need to be made for permission.

The situation is different where one parent has a Child Arrangement Order. A person with a Child Arrangement Order (Residence Order) can take a child abroad for up to a month without the written consent of the other parent. However, it is good parenting to endeavour to agree the arrangements in advance; if consent is unreasonably withheld then an application may be made to the Court.

If the mother alone has parental responsibility and there are no child arrangement orders concerning the child, permission is not strictly needed by her to take a child abroad on holiday. However, again it is responsible parenting to consult and reach agreement with the other parent. Of course this does not stop a father without parental responsibility applying for parental responsibility and then objecting to the temporary removal of the child.

In almost all cases it is best to agree holiday or similar arrangements in advance to avoid misunderstandings, problems with contact, accusations of abduction and other applications to the Court. In the normal course of events permission for a child to go abroad is invariably given by a Court. Often details are required stating where the child will be staying, giving the date of departure, return and details of flights along with contact telephone numbers. If however there are suspicions that the child will not be returned, especially if the child is going to a non Hague Convention Country, then security will be necessary.

If grandparents and other family members want to take a child abroad, permission will be needed from both parents with parental responsibility and not just from one parent.

All of these issues may be dealt with at the local Court, however, if the approved holiday requires consideration of the law and procedures in foreign countries, then a Judge of the High Court may deal with such applications as consideration will need to be given with regard to putting in place specific orders. This may include mirror orders, notarised agreements and significant sums of money placed in a bond to be released upon the child's return. There have also been cases where family members, not just the person taking the child abroad, have been required to enter into a solemn declaration guaranteeing the safe return of the child.

The Court would also look at the risk of non return along with the magnitude of the impact on the child of any non return. It is therefore evident from previous Judge's decisions that they take account of each individual circumstance, the age of the child and detailed protective steps if there is a significant fear of non return after a trip abroad.

For further information and questions on taking your child/children abroad, contact us today.

Concerns of abduction

It is not unusual, particularly in families with international connections, for either parent to be anxious that the child will not be returned. These doubts may arise prior to the child leaving on holiday or indeed where the parent and child are returned late after a contact visit or if it has been difficult to get in touch with the other parent at any stage. If there is an immediate risk, port alert will be required. If there is time to secure an application to the Court for an order prohibiting the removal of the child from the jurisdiction without notice being given to the other parent, this should be done quickly as it can be crucially important to prevent the child leaving the UK. Any delay in an application can result in the child being taken out of the jurisdiction and may then result in great difficulty in locating the child and securing their return.

Nevertheless, if it is known that the child has been taken to a Country within the European Union there are considerable resources and facilities in place to track and locate a child in the hope of securing a return before departure to the rest of the world.

Abduction is known as a failure to return a child after an agreed period abroad. As stated above there are protective steps which can be taken if there is a fear of a non return after a trip abroad and legal advice should always be sought promptly to address anxiety about any concerns of an abduction. Information such as names, addresses, photographs and descriptions of people and places where it is likely that the child could be taken should be gathered as soon as possible. Clearly, this evidence may only be available if there is a reason to suspect that the child is being taken to other family members or friends who reside abroad.

If you have any concerns about abduction and need some legal advice on the issue, contact our family team.

Relocating abroad

A parent needs the permission of the other parent or a Court Order to take a child permanently abroad. This is known as a relocation application or leave to remove.

In some cases it is appropriate to oppose the relocation application but in others it may be wise to consider putting energies into legal representation to ensuring very good future contact before the relocation proceeds. If there are well thought out plans, with good reasons given to the Court for relocation, they will generally allow relocation. This however, does not mean that a parent opposing relocation of their child should immediately give up.

When considering opposing relocation applications it is essential to consider all aspects of a child's life. The Court will hear evidence as to the child's educational progress, family and support network, activities that they are involved in along with the impact of losing contact with the wider family. Consideration will also be given by the Court as to what more could the one parent offer the child if they continue to reside in this jurisdiction. If the child is to remain in Europe where the country has signed up to the appropriate conventions, there will be certain protection and enforceability of orders for contact. Even if a child has been permitted to go abroad, certain safeguards can be put in place to ensure that good contact continues. This may include extended staying contact during the school holidays and consideration as to travel arrangements, the use of emails and web cams.

Enforcement is another important issue that is required to be looked at before a child leaves the jurisdiction as often if there is a breach of an agreement or an Order these may have no validity abroad and may therefore not be relied upon. Therefore notarised agreements, mirror orders, bonds, religious oaths and other safeguards to ensure compliance with arrangements should be considered. Contact Orders made in England may not automatically be recognised or may require separate Court procedures and all of this must be done before departure.

A mirror order is an order made in the courts of the country of relocation.  This is identical to the order made before the UK courts. Therefore the advantage for the left behind parent is that because the order becomes an order of the foreign state, local enforcement is available.

There are therefore many issues that have to be considered as far in advance as possible. Legal advice from a Solicitor, preferably who has experience in such matters, should be taken so that due consideration may be given to all the possibilities that may arise and precautionary measures put in place.

Many children go abroad on holiday to visit family and friends or indeed to emigrate and it is a positive experience for them. Ultimately wherever the children is residing, it is usually in the best interests of that child to have regular, quality and contact with both parents. If this is an issue that you require further assistance or advice on please contact us today.

The length of a marriage and the pre-existing financial positions of the husband and wife are both relevant factors when it comes to dividing up assets on divorce. However each case is decided on its own facts and in one case a wife was awarded £4.5 million at the end of a marriage that lasted less than two years.

The husband, in his 60s, was worth £37 million, almost all of which pre-dated his marriage to a woman almost 30 years his junior. During their brief union they enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, but the marriage and its breakdown were so tempestuous that the wife had suffered serious psychological harm.

Given the brevity of the marriage and the extent of the husband’s pre-existing wealth, a family judge acknowledged that it was not a case for equal sharing of assets. However, he found that the wife's needs included a £2.3 million flat in Central London. The husband was, amongst other things, also required to pay off her £300,000 debts and to provide her with a £1.3 million lump sum as a source of income.

In rejecting the husband’s appeal against that ruling, the High Court noted that, although the wife made no criticisms of his behaviour, she had left the marriage in a condition of great damage and vulnerability. Although her award might be viewed as generous, the judge’s assessment of her capital and income needs fell well within the discretion vested in him by the section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

For further information on this article or other family matters, please contact Jayne Gregg on 0121 700 1400, email j.gregg@sydneymitchell.co.uk or complete speak to a member of our family team for help or advice on family and divorce matters.

A decree absolute, ending a marriage, does not necessarily signal the end of judicial involvement in divorce. As one High Court case showed, financial arrangements can be revisited in the light of changed circumstances, including children growing up, the formation of new relationships and increases and decreases in income.

The case concerned a middle-aged NHS dentist and his care worker ex-wife who had two children during their 11-year marriage. After their relationship broke down, a decree absolute had been granted in 2011 and the wife had been awarded 53 per cent of the couple’s capital assets. The husband had also been required to pay her £2,250 in monthly maintenance.

The husband had since remarried and his new wife was expecting a baby. Whilst his financial responsibilities had increased, his income was said to have substantially dropped due to changes in NHS funding of dentistry. In those circumstances, a family judge agreed to reduce his maintenance payments to £2,000 per month. Provision was also made for their further reduction in stages as he approached retirement. However, the judge directed that the husband’s NHS pension, worth more than £190,000, should be shared equally with the wife.

The husband remained dissatisfied and, in challenging the judge’s order before the High Court, he presented fresh evidence as to his declining income and increased outgoings. In seeking a clean financial break, he claimed to be facing a deficit between his income and expenditure of £3,360 per month.

In rejecting his appeal, however, the Court could find no sufficient evidential basis on which to interfere with the judge’s clear and comprehensive conclusions. His decision to gradually decrease the wife’s maintenance payments until such time as they would be replaced by the pension sharing order was carefully crafted.

For advice please contact Emma Gray on 0121 746 3300, email emma.gray@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form.

The equal sharing principle applies in the vast majority of divorce cases nowadays – even where the sums of money involved are truly enormous. In one High Court case exactly on point, a billionaire oil and gas trader was ordered to pay his ex-wife a total of more than £450 million.

Despite difficulties in their marriage, it had subsisted for more than 20 years before their final separation. Although both Russian-born, they had settled in Britain where they had children together. The husband had enjoyed spectacular business success and the family assets were worth just over £1 billion.

The husband had, for unknown reasons, withdrawn his initial opposition to the wife’s divorce petition and her application for financial relief had thus proceeded on an uncontested basis. There was no evidence to support his plea that he was wealthy before the marriage or that he had made a special contribution to wealth creation through his work. Arguments that the majority of the assets were held by trusts of which the husband was only a discretionary beneficiary also fell on fallow ground.

In the circumstances, the Court found that all the assets concerned were matrimonial in character and that there was no reason of principle why they should not be divided equally. The wife's pre-action offer to settle her claim for £350 million had not been accepted by the husband and was no longer binding upon her. She was awarded in addition a number of chattels, including an Aston Martin car and a modern art collection valued at more than £85 million. The total value of her award was £453,576,152, or 41.5 per cent of the total marital assets.

For advice please contact Teresa Mannion on 0121 746 3300, email t.mannion@sydneymitchell.co.uk or complete our online enquiry.

There are some ‘big money’ cases where a stellar earner’s financial contribution to a marriage is considered so exceptional that the Court will take it into account when dividing assets between parties.  The Court of Appeal considered that issue in an important test case concerning a finance professional who earned £240 million in little more than a decade.

The former couple had been married for almost 20 years and had two children together. Both had been modest earners before the husband completed an MBA course and obtained a job with a private equity firm. Despite their high expenditure - including almost £3 million on divorce proceedings - their fortune still amounted to over £180 million by the time their divorce was finalised.

As well as being a home maker and mother to their children, the wife had supported the husband during his studies. In awarding her half of the marital wealth, a family judge found that they had formed a strong and equal partnership. Each of them had contributed emotionally and financially to the marriage and the judge found that an unequal division would amount to unjustifiable gender discrimination.

The husband argued that he should have received a 61 per cent share of the marital assets to reflect the enormous wealth that he had generated. In dismissing his appeal, however, the Court ruled that his financial contribution was not so wholly exceptional as to justify a departure from equality. The judge was in the best position to assess the evidence and had fully explained his conclusions.

If you would like to discuss your options or if you are concerned family legal issues please contact Amanda Holland or a member of our family team on 0121 698 2200, email a.holland@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form.

Legal and beneficial ownership of company shares are two very different concepts and, as one case strikingly showed, family judges have the power to look behind the corporate veil in ensuring a fair division of assets between divorcing couples.

The case concerned a group of companies that had been established by a highly successful businessman. A restructuring of his business affairs had resulted in shares in the group being placed in the legal ownership of members of his family. Following the end of his seven-year marriage, his ex-wife sought financial provision from him and argued that he was the beneficial owner of the shares.

In ruling on that issue, the High Court noted that the businessman was part of a close family whose members looked after each other. The restructuring was not a sham and was not motivated by a desire to reduce his wife’s entitlements. However, the businessman’s statement that he was running the group solely for the benefit of other members of his family was a blatant lie.

He had never intended to part with control of the business and, in the circumstances, the Court found that the other family members held their shares solely as nominees, or bare trustees, for his benefit. He was the 100 per cent beneficial owner of the group, its underlying companies and its assets.

If you need family law or child-care advice, contact Teresa Mannion on 0121 746 3300 or a member of the family law department  or complete our online enquiry.

Pre-nuptial agreements may not always lead to fair outcomes but they are generally valid if entered into freely. In one ‘big money’ divorce case exactly on point, the High Court had no power to award a wife half of a marital fortune approaching £11 million even though she had made an equal contribution to its accumulation.

The Scandinavian couple had been married for six years and had two children. He had earned very substantial sums as a professional sportsman and, despite having retired, still enjoyed an income of about £350,000 a year. The marital assets were valued at over £10.8 million, principally made up of equity of about £1.8 million in the former matrimonial home and bank accounts and shares worth £9 million. However, apart from her half share in the home in England that she still occupied with the children, the wife had no resources at all in her own name.

Prior to their marriage, the couple had signed a series of three pre-nuptial agreements, the effect of which was that, on divorce, each of them would retain his and her respective separate property. That meant that the wife was not entitled to claim any capital payment from the husband. The agreements also provided that a court in Stockholm would have exclusive jurisdiction to resolve any disputes arising.

The Court described the husband’s attitude to his children and former wife as mean-spirited. Given the length of the marriage, and the wife’s equal contribution to the generation of the family wealth, it was clearly unfair that she should be left with almost nothing. In finding the agreements valid, however, the Court rejected arguments that the wife’s signatures had been procured by the husband by misrepresentation or the application of undue pressure.

In the circumstances, the Court’s jurisdiction was tightly constrained and it was obliged to deal with the case on the basis of the needs of the wife and children, rather than the sharing principle that would otherwise have applied. The Court could not rule on the wife’s lump sum and maintenance claims until after the court in Stockholm had resolved such issues or declined to do so.

The Court directed the sale of the family home, to which the wife was deeply attached, and the equal division of the proceeds. The husband was ordered to make a sum of £2 million available to re-house the wife and children until a year after the latter ceased full-time education. He was also required to pay a carer’s allowance to the wife and periodical payments to the children, totalling £95,000 a year. Noting that the husband has money to spare, the Court urged him to consider settling the dispute in order to bring an end to the family’s agony.

Please contact Amanda Holland on 0121 698 2245, email a.holland@sydneymitchell.co.uk to arrange an appointment or complete our online contact form and we will call you back.

When people marry late in life they often bring substantial wealth to the marriage and the manner in which such assets should be divided on divorce is often a burning question. The High Court tackled that issue head on in awarding a wife £2.3 million of a total family pot valued at over £10.3 million.

The husband, aged 83, had been widowed for almost 10 years before he married his second wife, who was 17 years his junior. Having had a successful business career, he argued that most of the family wealth had been generated by him and his first wife prior to the marriage. He submitted that the wife’s financial entitlements should be assessed on the basis of her reasonable needs.

For her part, however, the wife argued that the sharing principle should apply and that she should receive half of the total pot. During the marriage, she had thrown herself into helping the husband with his business, which she had been instrumental in turning round from the brink of insolvency.

The Court found that, before the marriage, the husband had built up a substantial bedrock of wealth. He had also not made any specific promise to the wife that she would be entitled to half of everything. However, his business had been losing money heavily before the wife became involved and he had failed properly to acknowledge the value of her contribution.

Factoring in the value of assets that the husband had brought into the marriage, the Court ruled that the wife’s entitlement should be assessed on the basis of need. A global award of £2.3 million to the wife – leaving over 75 per cent of the total pot with the husband – was an entirely fair outcome. The award to the wife was substantially more generous than offers made by the husband during pre-trial negotiations.

This article is featured in the and the full Birmingham Post Rich List can be read at  Birmingham Post Rich List 2017.

For further information on this article, please contact Karen Moores on 0121 698 2200, email k.moores@sydneymitchell.co.uk, contact one of our family & childcare team  or fill in our online enquiry form.

Love is no respecter of national boundaries and married couples often have links to numerous different countries, giving rise to difficulties in deciding where disputes should be resolved if relationships end in divorce. However one Court of Appeal case showed that, at least within the European Union, there is a system in place to prevent national courts stepping on each other’s toes.

The case concerned a wealthy couple who had been engaged in financial wrangling for 15 years since their separation. They were divorced following proceedings in France and there were ongoing proceedings in Poland in respect of the division of marital assets. The focus of their dispute in England was a £2 million property in London that they had acquired during the marriage.

The property was held in the former couple’s joint names and the ex-wife sought an order under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 requiring its sale and equal division of the proceeds. The ex-husband’s plea that the English courts had no jurisdiction to entertain that claim did not persuade a judge.

In rejecting his appeal against that ruling, the Court found that exclusive jurisdiction to resolve the dispute was conferred on the English courts by Council Regulation (EC) No. 44/2001 on Jurisdiction and the Recognition of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters. The house was immovable property, situated in England, and the English courts were thus best placed to resolve the issues involved in the case.

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