A wealthy businessman who destroyed his marriage of more than 40 years by ‘putting to death’ his wife’s pet ram has been ordered to pay her £170,000 a year in interim maintenance pending the hearing of her case by a divorce judge.
The globe-trotting ex-couple – both over retirement age and whose property portfolio included a £15 million ‘ambassadorial’ home in central London – had enjoyed a life of luxury until the pet’s slaughter at one of their homes in the south of France brought about the irretrievable collapse of their relationship.
The mother of two grown up children issued a divorce petition in London, insisting that her ‘completely anglicised’ husband had made his home in the UK. He had for years insisted to the tax authorities that he was entitled to ‘non-dom’ status; however, his wife – who believed that she would get a ‘more generous’ deal from the English courts – argued that his claim to live abroad was ‘complete nonsense’.
The husband argued that he had already divorced his wife by a Muslim ‘talaq’ and that the case should be heard in the wife’s northern European homeland, where she had two homes. However, the High Court found that the wife had an ‘arguable case’ that he was domiciled in England, having spent over 110 days in this country during the previous 12 months – more than anywhere else in the world.
The wife had sought more than £390,000 in annual maintenance pending the resolution of jurisdictional issues in the case. That included £24,000 for ‘clothes and footwear’, £18,000 for eating out at restaurants and £70,000 for holidays and flights. She also wanted her husband to pay her £170,000 a year to rent a suitable London home on the basis that she could not be expected to stay in their London house with him when visiting Britain.
However, trimming down her maintenance, the Court noted that ‘two mature people’ ought to be able to share such a large house, which included two self-contained flats. The husband had offered to keep the main bedroom as ‘the domain of the wife alone’ and they could be expected to ‘signal by email’ when they would each be in London and to make their travel plans accordingly.
They could also share one car and the Court substantially cut down the wife’s clothing, eating out and holiday allowances. The husband was ‘a very rich man’ and the Court was ‘amply satisfied’ that he could ‘afford to pay’ £170,000 a year in maintenance. Interim arrangements having been put in place, the case would return to court at a later date when a judge would be asked to decide if the English courts had jurisdiction to hear the wife’s petition.