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Forum shopping is where a party to a proceeding chooses the court (forum) where it wants its case to be decided, usually based on where it feels it can get the most favorable or desired result. Think of like selling your car to a particular forum who you know will pay more. Well, the concept is the same, only forum shopping in divorce proceedings has instrumental consequences, for both parties, because English Courts deal with maintenance orders more preferably than Scottish Courts.
In this case, Charles Villier had filed for a divorce in Scotland in 2014 where he and his wife, Emma Vallier, had spent most of their married life. Emma Vallier made an application for a maintenance order under section 27 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The Act says that either party to a marriage can apply to court for a financial provisions order on the grounds that the other party; (a) failed to provide reasonable maintenance for the person applying, or; (b) has failed to provide, or make proper contributions towards reasonable maintenance for any child of the family. However, the court must only entertain the application if it has jurisdiction, or authority, in accordance with a particular regulation, derived from EU law. (Maintenance Regulation and Schedule 6 to the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments (Maintenance) Regulations 2011).
The Supreme Court handed down a judgement today which confirmed that the English Court has jurisdiction to hear the application by Mrs Villier, despite the fact that the parties had spent most of their life in Scotland, and had filed for their divorce under the Scottish Law. Lord Wilson, whilst delivering a dissenting judgement said that the decision today risks giving ‘an untrammelled license to a wife to go forum-shopping, in other words to put her husband at an initial disadvantage unrelated to the merits of the case’.
Following this judgement, the doors of English Courts are open to hear financial claims by parties from Scotland. On the face of it, the most vulnerable will be financially better off, if successful, as there is a huge difference in how the courts deal with such applications in England.
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