Record UK divorce payout.

Are we about to see a record UK divorce payout now that Galina Berezovsky has obtained a decree nisi in her divorce from Boris Berezovsky the exiled oligarch? Many of us family lawyers are speculating over the figure that may be received by Galina who has been married for 18 years and has two children with Boris.

His fortune is estimated at £1billion although it is difficult to be accurate as his wealth is spread over a number of jurisdictions but it is a certain fact that Galina will be a very wealthy woman following the settlement.

Whilst Boris and Galina have been married for 18 years, they only spent approximately two years living together as Boris has for the past 15 years lived with his girlfriend Yelena Gorbunova and their two children now at the Wentworth Park Estate in Surrey whilst Galina resides in Kensington with their two teenage children.

Boris who has a box at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium was granted political asylum in the Uk in 2001 has managed to avoid extradition to Russia on three occasions following charges of fraud and corruption. Much of his wealth is said to have been accumulated after his separation from Galina.

The courts may have to consider an appropriate settlement if agreement cannot be reached and given the length of the marriage albeit in estranged circumstances it is expected the settlement will dwarf the past record payout of £48million from £131 million awarded to Beverely Charman in 2007. Using the rationale in that case Galina may be expecting close to £370 million (37%) however I would expect a settlement closer to £100million on the basis that he is likely to argue that his fortune has arisen as a result of his “stellar” qualities and wealth has been accumulated post separation.

One thing is for certain is that the recent comments made by Lord Justice Thorpe about these incredibly wealthy “divorce tourists” taking up significant amounts of judicial time will be the case if the parties cannot agree this matter. Lord Justice Thorpe is unhappy about those couples who have the choice of a number of residencies and therefore jurisdictions in which to commence litigation are settling upon London due to the notably high payouts. This places a disproportionate amount of court time and resources putting a strain on the legal system.

Whilst family proceedings are private in the UK if the parties are unable to reach a settlement between themselves, the court will be required to adjudicate. Where significant settlements are ordered these cases are reported due to the reasoning given by the Judge and whilst in the majority of cases efforts are made to try to protect the families anonymity, sometimes this is not possible because of the media interest and wealth involved.

This was highlighted in the recent case of Heather Mills and Sir Paul McCartney where Miss Mills was awarded £24.3million from Sir Paul’s £400million fortune.  Miss Mills still argues that his wealth was double that amount.

It is however possible to reach a settlement without the courts becoming involved other than confirming the agreement reached between the parties as evidenced by Madonna and Guy Ritchie in their recent divorce. Whilst media speculation estimates that Guy received close to £50million there is no evidence to confirm the amount or public scrutiny of a case report.

I await with interest the outcome of Boris and Galina’s case but would suggest as is always the case that a negotiated settlement is better than a settlement imposed upon the parties by the court.

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