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Fri 14 Jun 2013

Important Supreme Court Ruling has significant implications for divorcing couples

Important Supreme Court Ruling has significant implications for divorcing couples

On 12 June 2013, the Supreme Court published its Judgment in a case which came before it in early March 2013.  The case involved an oil trader, Michael Prest, and his former wife, Yasmin Prest. Their dispute focused on the ownership of various properties, owned by offshore companies.  Mrs Prest argued that the companies were really owned and controlled by Mr Prest.


Originally the issue came before Mr Justice Moylan in the High Court.  He attributed the companies to be the husband’s and under his control. He made an award in favour of the ex-wife of £17.5 million.  The award envisaged that Mr Prest would transfer properties held by various companies, here in the UK and overseas, to Mrs Prest in part payment.


The companies then appealed and won in the Appeal Court, with the Judges concluding in October 2012 that the earlier ruling was wrong.  Hence the application by Mrs Prest to ask the Supreme Court, the highest Court in the land, to review the Appeal Court finding.


The Supreme Court with the leading Judgment of Lord Sumption found in Mrs Prest’s favour.


There were seven disputed properties vested in two companies and the Supreme Court found that these were all held in trust for the husband so that the companies would be ordered to transfer those properties to the former wife.


The couple, who are both in their early 50s married in 1993 and spent most of their time in London, where the former matrimonial home was purchased.  They had properties in Nigeria and the Caribbean, and lived comfortably.


The effect of the Supreme Court ruling means that for the future, husbands (or indeed any spouses) who arrange their affairs such that assets are held by companies rather than themselves personally, will be susceptible to Courts finding that such assets are available to be transferred as part of a matrimonial settlement.  The Supreme Court decided that such company property could be viewed as held on trust for the spouse who owns and controls that company.


If you require matrimonial or family assistance, please contact:


Keith Maynard



Direct Dial: 020 7644 7278


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