In 2012, London cemented its reputation as the “divorce capital of the world”.
A review by the Law Commission concluded that family law in the UK was perceived to be more generous than it is in other countries.
London Mayor Boris Johnson echoed these opinions and even urged the wives of billionaires to travel to London so they could take their other halves “to the cleaners”.
A controversial statement indeed, but the reality is that plenty of billionaires’ wives have already been doing just that.
Why are London divorce courts so generous?
The Law Commission review cited the House of Lords case of White v White back in 2000. This was regarded as a landmark case because it was the first to suggest that the ‘breadwinner’ shouldn’t necessarily retain the surplus after their partner’s needs have been met.
Presiding over the case, Lord Nicholls said that he was keen “to ensure the absence of discrimination” against those who provided to the family in other ways, such as taking care of the children.
Pamela White was originally awarded a sum of £800,000 for her divorce from husband White, but this increased to £1.5 million following an appeal.
Since then, there have been plenty of divorcing wives who have followed in the footsteps of Pamela White by travelling to London for an award greater than their financial contribution to the family. The biggest example of this could be when Paul McCartney and Heather Mills split in 2006 and a London court ordered the former Beatles star to pay his ex-wife £24.3 million.
The negotiations went on for more than two years prior to this verdict. Mills had originally campaigned for more than five times this amount, but still received what was one of the biggest ever divorce payouts at the time.
A year later, fellow musician Phil Collins was taken to the cleaners for £25 million in London. His third wife Orianne Cevey was the recipient of this fortune. Collins is thought to have handed over a total of £42 million to his ex-wives, which is almost a third of his net worth.
It’s not just women who are beneficiaries of London’s generosity though. Guy Ritchie was awarded an estimated £50 million after divorcing Madonna in 2008.
The low-earners don’t always get their own way
It’s not just celebrity spouses who have earned huge amounts getting divorced in London. There are plenty of oligarchs and entrepreneurs who have had to give away huge proportions of their wealth to ex-wives and ex-husbands as well.
That’s not always the case though. In 2013, entrepreneur Dale Vince, who made his millions through wind farms, was victorious in a London court despite his ex-wife appealing against her original divorce settlement.
Kathleen Wyatt believed it was unfair that Mr Vince was ordered not to pay any maintenance when they split back in 1992. The main basis of her argument was that her ex-husband was now worth millions. However, The Court of Appeal agreed that Wyatt was still entitled to nothing as the couple were penniless when they split and Vince made the entirety of his fortune after getting divorced.
It would appear, though, that these cases are the exception not the rule and that London has truly earned its reputation as “divorce capital of the world”.