It has been reported in the press (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/08/saudi-billionaire-sheikh-walid-juffali-denied-diplomatic-immunity?CMP=share_btn_link) this week that Sheikh Walid Juffali, a Saudi Arabian billionaire businessman, has been told by the High Court this week that he may face an order to pay maintenance to his ex-wife, Christina Estrada, despite him having pleaded diplomatic immunity on the basis of his appointment to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2014.

The Supreme Court appears to have accepted Estrada’s legal team’s argument that his appointment to the IMO was done simply to try and avoid any potential claims against him in the UK arising out of their divorce.

Sheikh Juffali, worth an estimated £4bn, divorced Estrada in Saudi Arabia, after 13 years of marriage and the birth of their child. Whilst Juffali claims to have made generous provision for Estrada and their child, she states that she is unable to make any financial claims against him in Saudi Arabia.

Estrada was able to make her claim for a divorce settlement from Juffali under The Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act (MFPA) 1984 which enables applications to be made even if a divorce settlement has already been made in another country. Whilst it can seem that the MFPA 1984 allows anyone with some links to the UK to take advantage of what may appear to be a more generous approach to divorce settlements than is taken in other countries, this is not in fact the case. An application for a divorce settlement made using this legislation is only likely to be successful if it is clear that it is needed to alleviate the inadequate financial provision granted in the other country.

Juffali claims to already be providing generously for Estrada, whereas she claims to have received no divorce settlement. Even if Jufalli is already making the provision for Estrada as he claims, it may be that the courts in the UK will want the provision to be formally set out within a court order. This would formalise their situation, and would mean that should Jufalli stop paying maintenance Estrada could try to enforce the order using the UK courts.

Divorces with an international element can be complicated, and require important decisions to be made early in the proceedings. It can be imperative to obtain clear legal advice on your options; please get in touch with us.