Tactical manoeuvring designed to ensure that big money divorce cases are heard in England, where judges are perceived as being more generous, does occur. In one case, however, the High Court cleared a wife of any such cynical conduct.
The former couple were both German nationals, but had lived in England for some years prior to the breakdown of the marriage following the wife’s discovery that the husband had had an affair. She petitioned for divorce in England, just over a month before her husband lodged a parallel petition in Germany.
In arguing that the divorce proceedings should take place in Germany, the husband claimed not to have been properly served with the English petition. He also asserted that the wife’s petition was an abuse of process in that, at the time it was issued, she held no genuine belief that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. She was alleged to have lodged the proceedings simply to ensure that the divorce would proceed in England in the event that a divorce proved necessary.
In rejecting those arguments, however, the Court found that the wife had clearly been shattered by the discovery of the husband’s affair. Her petition was genuine and was designed to be served immediately and to bring the marriage to an end. A delay in serving the petition was largely due to an administrative error and the husband was fully aware of the English proceedings before he lodged his own petition in Germany. In the circumstances, the English courts had jurisdiction to consider the wife’s petition.