Year: 2019

Your Social Media Divorce Farce

When your divorce becomes social media fodder because you yourself are posting things online about it, what are the risks? Lifestyle and mommy blogger Eva Amurri Martino – who has posted to her followers that she and her husband are going to “lovingly part ways as a couple” (aka divorce) – may find out the hard way.

Social Media Divorce

News Feed

Eva, the daughter of Susan Sarandon, and her husband who is a former soccer player, announced their split with simultaneous posts on both their Instagram and Twitter accounts. In the photo, they are beautiful and laughing on their porch with their two adorable young children, despite the somber message.

Eva is 23-weeks pregnant with the couple’s third child, making the beautiful laughing picture and self-described “lovingly parting ways” description seem like a total farce.

The couple also has been remodeling a home and both posted declarations of love on their anniversary less than a month ago. Her followers immediately began speculating what happened on various internet forums, and they have become tabloid fodder.

Florida Divorce and Social Media

Eva Amurri Martino’s decision to “lovingly part ways” and broadcast her divorce to the world is part of the recent phenomenon of the “divorce selfie” and other social media announcements.

I’ve written about the widespread use of social media in society, and how that impacts family court cases. Social media evidence is increasingly becoming important at trial – especially when it comes to authenticating exhibits in family court.

Some exhibits are so trustworthy they don’t even require a witness to authenticate. Evidence Rule 201 lists matters which a court must judicially notice, meaning a judge does not have discretion but to admit indisputable evidence.The list is short, and includes laws of the Congress and Florida Legislature; Florida statewide rules of court, rules of United States courts, and U.S. Supreme Court rules.

Rule 202 includes even more matters, but also provides judges leeway in deciding whether or not to take judicial notice. For example, the statute allows a court to take judicial notice of facts that are not subject to dispute because they are “generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the court”, and facts that are not subject to dispute because they are “capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot be questioned.”

With evidence of foreign governments using social media to spread disinformation and propaganda, and the widespread use of fake social media accounts, you have to wonder whether the genuineness assumption of evidence in family court still stands.

Create a Post

Eva and Kyle’s divorce raises an interesting question: when your brand is your life, how do you post divorce information? Influencers usually handle this in three ways: They ignore it and “keep it off the feed,” they offer an unfiltered look at their hardship, or they go dark until the storm passes.

Eva has kept up her usual posts and aesthetic, but mixed in the realities of her new situation. Her activity over the past week features her usual glam, well-lit Instagrams, but with divorce talk sprinkled in. For example, she hosted a “slumber party” for her girlfriends, complete with makeup, pearls, and matching silk pajamas. She also has been posting family shots, now missing a member.

For his part, Kyle posted this absolutely heartbreaking post the other day. Something about how peppy and lovely it looks kind of kills me?

If you’re considering divorce — even if you plan to file for divorce online and expect it to go amicably — take some precautions. Lockdown privacy settings for example, and be cognizant that your posts could be used against you.

Even if things are moving forward in an amicable fashion, you don’t want to turn your divorce into a contested legal battle. That may include keeping your divorce off Facebook and Twitter. If you have children, consider an agreement that child-related social media posts are limited especially photos and posts that give insight into children’s personal lives.

Influencers like Eva, who have used their children to create a family brand, may have little choice but to make glowing comments such as “lovingly parting ways” while 6-months pregnant and in the middle of a remodeling project.

The Buzzfeed article is here.

 

Five Ways to Improve Your Divorce

While your performance never faltered before, after you enter into a divorce, you can become overwhelmed by the competition for your attention. Forbes magazine reports on five way to improve your divorce and maintain your productivity.

Improve Divorce

1. Build an emotional support network outside of the office. From both an emotional and a practical standpoint, keeping conversations about your divorce out of the workplace is smart. Of course, you need to talk with those involved in collecting the requisite documents—an HR representative, for example—but those discussions should be factual in nature. Talking about the personal and emotional aspects of your divorce should be reserved for close friends or family members outside of work.

Don’t neglect your need for emotional comfort during this time. Divorce is stressful. In addition to having a strong support network, make sure you hire a lawyer who makes you feel empowered and comfortable, who helps you understand the divorce process and is accessible when you need counsel.

2. Be cooperative and realistic in your efforts to work with the other side. If you or your spouse take positions in your divorce that lead to additional court appearances, your productivity will be affected, because those appearances will take you away from your office. In fact, even preparing the paperwork with your lawyer can take you away from your job for hours at a time. You can minimize this time away by approaching your divorce pragmatically, organizing as much as you can in your off-hours, and being as straightforward and transparent as you can be in terms of the documents and information you produce. If everything becomes a tug of war, with subpoenas being issued and every aspect of the divorce litigated, you will be diverting precious time and energy from your career.

3. Allocate a certain amount of time each day to addressing divorce-related communications. As much as you might like to wait until you get home at night to handle divorce matters, reality sometimes dictates speedier replies. Divorce matters are generally handled during working hours, and if your lawyer has a question or information to share, your delayed response could mean a slowdown in the process. Set aside a block of time during the day when you can read and respond to related emails and place necessary phone calls. Keep a running list of to-do items and questions for your lawyer so that you can jot them down when they occur to you throughout the day and then put them out of your mind until later. Sending your lawyer just one comprehensive email a day with all of your questions and concerns will improve your productivity as well as your lawyer’s (which can also save you money!).

Florida Divorce

I’ve written on various divorce issues. In Florida, a divorce is called a “dissolution of marriage.” Florida is also one of the many states that have abolished fault as a ground for dissolution of marriage.

The only requirement to dissolve a marriage is for one of the parties to prove that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage.

Although no-fault divorce is Florida law, the process of going through a divorce can be grueling, and will eat into your productive time. Part of the stress comes from the fact that the divorce process can be very emotional and traumatic for couples as well as their kids.

4. Have separate work and personal email accounts. This is, of course, good advice whether you’re going through a divorce or not. Nothing can distract you faster than seeing personal emails popping into your inbox all day long. In fact, you may even want to create a new account specifically dedicated to divorce correspondence. Then, when “Divorce Management” pops up on your calendar, you can get straight to all divorce-related matters and take care of them during your allotted time slot.

Likewise, keep any divorce-related documents in their own secure folder on your computer so you can access them at a moment’s notice rather than having to spend time hunting them down.

5. Keep your lawyer apprised of any blackout dates on your calendar. If you travel for work or have certain must-attend meetings or events, make sure your lawyer is aware of these as soon as they are scheduled so you can avoid conflicts with any necessary court appearances or other important meetings related to your divorce. Being unable to meet key business obligations can not only set back your productivity but also damage your standing in the eyes of clients, your manager or your peers.

The Forbes article is here.

 

Divorce and Business Property Division

When one of Zach Hendrix’s three business partners said he was getting divorced, sympathy turned into shock as everyone realized that a soon-to-be ex-wife could become a co-owner. Understanding the law around business and property division in a divorce is the first step to protecting yourself.

business property divisions

Open for Business

When a small business owner divorces, the company can become part of a property fight; the battle can end with owners losing all or part of their businesses. Or, they or the company may be forced to take on debt to prevent an ex from sharing ownership.

Even when ownership isn’t at stake, the rancor and uncertainty around a divorce can take a toll on a company — owners may be distracted and unable to focus on what the business needs.

Hendrix and two of his co-owners had to borrow a combined $250,000 to buy out their partner in 2017 after he announced his divorce plans. A startup, and not in a position to get that much credit, the three had to personally guarantee the loans. They were able to repay the debt in a year and a half out of their profits.

The divorce was a learning experience for the partners. When they started, they hadn’t written what’s known as a buy-sell agreement that creates a process and sets a price for buying out a partner.

Florida Business Property Division

I have written about property division recently. Florida is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing businesses in divorce.

In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

There are several factors to know whether a business interest is marital. First, you will need to look at the date of marriage and the date the business interest was acquired.

Additionally, you should look to the source of funds used to start the business, and also if there were money and labor contributions to the business given by either spouse during the marriage. In distributing the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution.

Whenever an agreement cannot be made between the spouses, the court’s distribution of marital assets or marital liabilities must be supported by factual findings and be based on competent evidence.

Once you have determined whether an interest in a business is marital, how do you actually determine what that interest is worth?

There are three approaches to value a business interest: (1) the asset approach; (2) the income approach; and (3) the market approach.  Each approach has inherent strengths and weaknesses.

Any valuation expert should consider all three approaches; however, it is often the case that all three approaches cannot be applied.

Back in business

The emotional fallout from a divorce can affect co-owners and employees. In his settlement with his wife, Jeffrey Deckman agreed to pay her $100,000 over four years; that amount was half what his telecommunications business was valued at.

Deckman borrowed money to make the payments, but having that debt hanging over him created stress that spilled over to his company.

“I started getting edgy, short-tempered, pushing hard for (sales) numbers that I never pushed so hard for before.”

He began fighting with his two business partners, and the discord affected everyone who worked there. It took six months for Deckman to realize what he was doing. “It showed me on a certain level that I hadn’t accepted responsibility for the deal I made,” he says.

But by the time Deckman understood that “I was making people pay,” he had damaged his relationship with his partners and staffers. In 2005, two years after the divorce, he realized that he needed to withdraw from working in the company, and in 2008 he sold his stake. Deckman, who now does consulting for small and mid-sized companies, believes despite losing his share of the business that he did the right thing in his divorce settlement.

He says of his ex-wife: “Today, years later, we are great friends and our children benefit greatly because of it.”

The Detroit News story is here.

 

New Article: Daubert House

My new article on the changes to our expert witness rules, which impact all family law and divorce cases, is now available at the Family Law Section website. Daubert House not only discusses Florida’s changes to the expert witness rules, it mixes in references to National Lampoon’s Animal House for reasons those familiar with the Florida Supreme Court’s recent opinion will understand.

family law daubert

Were the Changes Even Constitutional?

In amending the Florida Evidence Code, the Legislature bound Florida courts to the Daubert standard for the admission of expert testimony and opinions. However, those changes were short lived. The Florida Bar Board of Governors and several Florida Bar committees strongly opposed the changes.

Up until recently, there was also the controversy lingering about the constitutionality of what the Florida Legislature did. While the Legislature can enact substantive law, only the Supreme Court can regulate courtroom practice and procedure.

The trick is that the Evidence Code contains both substantive and procedural provisions. If the Legislative branch encroached on the judicial branch, the changes are subject to a strict separation of powers doctrine review.

In response, the Florida Supreme Court declined to adopt the Daubert Amendment to the extent that it is procedural, due to the constitutional concerns raised. The Florida Supreme Court instead left it for a proper case or controversy.

That case was DeLisle v. Crane. The Florida Supreme Court found that the Legislative amendments to Section 90.702 were not substantive because they did not “create, define, or regulate a right”, but was procedural rulemaking instead.

Additionally, the Court held that the Daubert amendment conflicted with the exiting Frye rule because Frye and Daubert were competing methods to determine the reliability of expert testimony. Once again, Frye was the appropriate test in Florida courts. Unknown to everyone, Frye was on “Double Secret Probation.”

Faber College

After our new governor was sworn into office, he appointed three new Florida Supreme Court justices. This year, the Florida Supreme Court, without re-addressing the correctness of its own ruling in DeLisle, chose to recede from its prior decision not to adopt the Legislature’s Daubert amendments.

The dissent, made reference to the movie Animal House:“Like the little-known codicil in the Faber College constitution . . .” in objecting to the manner in which the majority of the Florida Supreme Court re-adopted Daubert.

Effective immediately, the Florida Supreme Court adopted the Legislatures’ 2013 amendments to section 90.702 as procedural rules of evidence, and adopted the amendment to section 90.704 to the extent it is procedural.

The article is available on the Florida Bar’s Family Law Section website here.

 

International Divorce and Jurisdiction

If Britain has the biggest pay-outs for divorcing spouses, can anyone file for divorce there? The ex-wife of a Russian oligarch, who was denied permission to pursue her international divorce claims against her husband’s $19 billion fortune, just found out about jurisdiction the hard way.

International Divorce and Jurisdiction

To Russia With Love

Natalia Potanina, 58 was attempting to secure an increased pay out through English courts from her former husband, Vladimir Potanin – Russia’s second richest man, claiming that the initial amount she received left her facing ‘hardship’ and did not meet her ‘reasonable needs.’

Ms Potanina claimed that she was only given $41.5 million when the couple divorced in 2014 but deserved considerably more because of the role she played in helping to build her husband’s extensive business empire.

She was attempting to launch a case in the English courts, where divorce pay outs are notoriously high, protesting that when she tried in Russia she got considerably less because of her husband’s ‘wealth, power and influence,’ which denied her a fair settlement.

She also alleged that he had secreted his vast wealth out of her reach in a complex web of offshore companies while pleading to judges in Moscow that he had virtually no assets.

International Divorce Issues

International divorce often brings up the issue of jurisdiction. Who sues whom, how do you sue for divorce, and in what country are problems in an international divorce case. The answers are more difficult than people think as I have written before.

A British divorce might give more money because British courts can disregard prenuptial agreements, and the cost of living is high in London. However, in Florida, the outcome could be different still.

Rules about children and hiding assets is a problem in every divorce, especially in international cases. The problem of discovery of hidden wealth is even bigger in an international divorce because multiple countries, and multiple rules on discovery, can be involved. The problems in an international divorce are more complicated because hiding assets from a spouse is much easier in some countries than in others.

Florida, at one extreme, requires complete disclosure of assets and liabilities. In fact, in Florida certain financial disclosure is mandatory. At the other extreme, are countries which require very little disclosure from people going through divorce.

Choosing possible countries to file your divorce in can be construed as “forum shopping”. The European Union introduced a reform called Brussels II, which prevents “forum shopping”, with a rule that the first court to be approached decides the divorce. But the stakes are high: ending up in the wrong legal system, or with the wrong approach, may mean not just poverty but misery.

Residency for divorce is a very important jurisdictional requirement in every case. Generally, the non-filing party need not be a resident in the state in order for the court to divorce the parties under the divisible divorce doctrine. The court’s personal jurisdiction over the non-filing spouse is necessary only if the court enters personal orders regarding the spouse.

The durational domicile or residency requirement goes to the heart of the court’s ability to divorce the parties, because the residency of a party to a divorce creates a relationship with the state to justify its exercise of power over the marriage.

Back in the USSR

Lawyers acting for her husband took the matter to the High Court in London, asking for her English legal bid to be thrown out during a three-day hearing which took place last month. Delivering his judgment, Mr. Justice Cohen said that the claim that Mrs. Potanina received $41.5 million was ‘untrue and that the real figure was actually over $84 million. In addition to this, she also received $7.3 million in child maintenance. She also purchased a home in Long Island, New York, soon after the divorce, which is worth $6.5 million.

To most people it would seem inconceivable that someone who has received an award of $40-80 million could argue that reasonable needs have not been met, but each case is fact-specific and I accept that the wife could argue that her reasonable needs have not been met. However, the other 16 factors mitigate strongly against her claim proceeding.

If this claim is allowed to proceed then there is effectively no limit to divorce tourism”

Potanina is “very disappointed” and plans to appeal, the judge said. Lawyers for both sides declined to comment. Potanin, Russia’s richest tycoon with $27 billion fortune, is considered to be one of the few “oligarchs,” who became rich under first Russian President Boris Yeltsin. He also plays hockey at the so-called Night Hockey league, sometimes against President Vladimir Putin.

The judge dismissed arguments from Potanina that she couldn’t obtain justice in Russia, saying the local courts properly applied the law. Potanina said that her husband was “too powerful.”

“I do not believe that there is anything more I could have done to obtain justice in Russia. It was an impossible task,” she said in a written submission cited by the judge.

The couple lived in Russia for the length of their marriage, before Potanina moved to England in 2014, the judge said. Her first contact after her arrival appears to have been to obtain advice from London divorce lawyers, the judge said in his ruling.

The Bloomberg article is here.

 

The Art of Divorce

Dividing assets in a divorce is not only a requirement, it can be a difficult aspect of a divorce. If so, valuing an art collection is singularly one of the most disputed parts of a divorce. Not only is valuation a problem, but people are emotionally attached to their artwork as one billionaire couple in New York has found out.

art of divorce

Billionaire’s Row

The ex-husband is Harry Macklowe, a real estate developer. The ex-wife is Linda Macklowe, an honorary trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who is passionate about collecting modern art.

Together they have accumulated a $72 million apartment, so large it runs the full length of one side of the Plaza Hotel, with windows overlooking Central Park. A second Manhattan apartment is high up in one of the tallest buildings in the Western Hemisphere, along the so-called Billionaires’ Row.

Their $19 million house in the Hamptons on Long Island has neighbors with boldface names, including Martha Stewart and Steven Spielberg. The $23.5 million yacht is a 150-foot-long prizewinner.

And then there is the art collection, an enormous trove of masterpieces that the judge presiding over the divorce described as “extraordinary” and “internationally renowned” and that has become the latest chapter in the exes’ rancorous unraveling. Among the more than 150 pieces are multiple works by Pablo Picasso, Jeff Koons, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.

The exes’ lawyers have fought about what most of them were worth — one rare moment of agreement came when two art experts hired separately by the exes both valued an Andy Warhol creation filled with images of Marilyn Monroe at $50 million — and who should get them.

Florida Property Division

I have written about property division before. Florida is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing art in divorce. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s nonmarital assets and liabilities.

In distributing the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution.

Whenever an agreement cannot be made between the spouses, the court’s distribution of marital assets or marital liabilities must be supported by factual findings and be based on competent evidence. Whether the court distributes artwork equally or not, the court must make specific written findings of fact as to each marital asset and the individual valuation of significant assets, and designation of which spouse shall be entitled to each asset.

Because an effective valuation is important, most attorneys will hire an expert appraiser to provide the appropriate report and testimony to the court.

It’s Up to You New York, New York

The Macklowes’ divorce comes with the twist of an impressive art collection that has been valued at as much as nearly $1 billion. In 2016, Mr. Macklowe told Ms. Macklowe that the marriage was over. By the end of last year, the Macklowes’ divorce had been granted. Mr. Macklowe then put giant images of himself and Patricia Landeau, his new wife, on the side of a luxury condominium building in Manhattan that he built.

But the wrangling continued over how to divide an art collection that David N. Redden, a former vice chairman of Sotheby’s, called “fairly staggering” and “one of the great prizes.” In the Macklowes’ divorce, the former spouses had to unload the art “to sustain their lifestyle. They don’t have the cash.” About 60 to 75 percent of their assets were tied up in the art collection.

As for the value of the art, during the lower-court proceeding, each side hired an expert to appraise the art. Mr. Macklowe’s expert estimated the value at $788 million; Ms. Macklowe’s expert said $625 million.

“If this had been a case with one or two fewer zeros, it would be an ordinary kind of dispute. Because of the prominence of the parties and the amount of money involved, this is a case that attracts natural attention.”

Ms. Macklowe did not want to let anything go. “She stated that she wished to enjoy the collection and sell individual pieces only as necessary to support her standard of living.” That would have posed tax problems for Mr. Macklowe. The wife wanted all the major pieces of art to go to her, and she would decide what to sell and when to sell it. The husband would have to pay taxes on what would be sold, because the value that would be attributed to the works would be the after-tax value. She would keep the art, the art would get sold and he would pay the taxes.

The New York Times article is here.

 

Speaking on Halloween and Daubert

This Halloween I will be co-presenting a webinar with the Hon. Samantha Ruiz Cohen. The presentation is sponsored by the Florida Bar Family Law Section. The webinar will discuss Florida’s dark, lonely road to a new standard for admitting expert testimony: Daubert Returns.

Daubert

The presentation addresses the changes to §90.702 and §90.704; how the new Daubert standard differs from Florida’s old Frye rule; the Constitutional problem, appellate cases applying the new standard; how the judge’s role has changed; and the new Rules’ impact on the admissibility of expert testimony in family law cases.

The webinar will take place tomorrow, October 31, 2019 beginning at noon.

Did I mention the witches?

There is still time to register by clicking here.

 

Upcoming Webinar

For any interested readers, I will be speaking with the Hon. Samantha Ruiz Cohen at a webinar hosted by the Florida Bar Family Law Section. The webinar will discuss Florida’s twisting road to the current standard for admitting expert testimony in family law and divorce cases.

fla-supreme-ct

The presentation addresses the statutory changes to §90.702 and §90.704; how the new Daubert standard differs from Florida’s old Frye rule; the now-settled Constitutional problem, some appellate cases applying the new standard; how the judge’s role in admitting expert testimony has changed; and the new Rules’ impact on the admissibility of expert testimony in Family Law cases.

You can register by clicking here.

 

Divorce and the Engagement Ring

Kim Kardashian reportedly refused to give back her engagement ring to estranged husband, former basketball player, Kris Humphries. Is a spouse obligated to return an engagement ring after a divorce has been filed – whether the ring is worth $2mm or not?

engagement ring

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

A source close to the Kardashian situation reports that her husband Kris contends that the marriage was a total sham and that Kim only wed him for publicity so therefore she has no right to keep such an expensive gift.

This is the latest battle in the drawn-out Kardashian-Humphries divorce proceedings. The reality star filed for divorce from Humphries in October 2011 after just 72-days of marriage. He responded a month later by filing for an annulment on the basis of fraud and a legal separation.

Florida Engagement Rings

I’ve written about some of the history and law about engagement rings before. Until the 1930s, a woman jilted by her fiancé could sue for financial compensation for “damage” to her reputation under what was known as the “Breach of Promise to Marry” action.

As courts began to abolish such actions, diamond ring sales rose in response to a need for a symbol of financial commitment from the groom. Florida abolished the appropriately termed “heart balm statutes”. Heart balm statutes were laws allowing couples to sue each other to recover money for the alienation of affections and breaches of contract to marry.

As one court poetically noted:

[A] gift given by a man to a woman on condition that she embark on the sea of matrimony with him is no different from a gift based on the condition that the donee sail on any other sea. If, after receiving the provisional gift, the donee refuses to leave the harbor – if the anchor of contractual performance sticks in the sands of irresolution and procrastination – the gift must be restored to the donor. A fortiori would this be true when the donee not only refuses to sail with the donor, but, on the contrary, walks up the gangplank of another ship arm in arm with the donor’s rival?

After an engagement ring is given, and if the couple doesn’t marry, in New York the law deems a broken engagement as no one’s fault. Accordingly, the ring should be given back to the giver, with few exceptions. Most states have adopted that approach.

This is true in Florida. Lawsuits to recover an engagement ring by disappointed donors usually are resolved by courts looking to see if the engagement was terminated by the donee or by mutual consent of the parties. The rationale is that rings are given on the implied condition that a marriage ensue.

Once a marriage proposal is extended and accepted — once the promise is made — no matter what day of the year, that ring is no longer considered a gift. It’s a contract to enter into marriage.

The general rule in Florida is that an engagement ring given before the marriage, becomes a non-marital gift if the marriage is completed. If so, the ring becomes the non-marital property of the Wife.

If the engagement ring is viewed by the court as a non-marital asset, it is not subject to equitable distribution in divorce proceedings, and the spouse keeps it as their own.

Reality TV

Relying on real attorneys and not Judge Judy, both sides of the Kardashian case have accused each other in court and in the media of deliberately slowing down the divorce process, which has lasted five times longer than their marriage.

Recently, Kardashian’s attorney told the judge that her client is “handcuffed to Mr. Humphries” because his team is still not ready for trial. The estranged couple is set to return to court in mid-February to determine a trial date.

The Huffington Post article is here.

 

International Divorce Problems

The housewife in the middle of one of Britain’s biggest international divorce cases has finally succeeded in serving her billionaire ex-husband legal papers after an attempt to serve them via the messaging app WhatsApp failed, a British court has ruled.

international divorce

Russian Meddling

Tatiana Akhmedova, who is in her 40s, was awarded a 41.5 per cent share of Russian businessman Farkhad Akhmedov’s estate by a British divorce court judge in December 2016. His fortune is estimated to be worth more than £1bn and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said Ms Akhmedova, who is British, should walk away with £453m.

However, Mrs. Justice Gwynneth Knowles, sitting in the High Court’s family division, said Mr Akhmedov, 64, had “regrettably” not “voluntarily paid a penny” of the money owed and that around £5m had been paid after enforcement.

The judge said she had been trying to serve the application by WhatsApp. That had not worked, ‘probably’ because Mr Akhmedov had blocked the number. An attempt at delivering documents to Mr Akhmedov’s office in Moscow had been ‘refused’.

Mrs. Justice Gwynneth Knowles says Ms Akhmedova has succeeded in serving legal papers relating to an application for asset freezing orders on Mr Akhmedov.

The judge heard that Farkhad Akhmedov had not voluntarily paid a penny to his ex-wife. The judge heard that Farkhad Akhmedov had not voluntarily paid a penny to his ex-wife. Mr Justice Haddon-Cave has ruled that Mr Akhmedov’s £346million yacht, the MV Luna, should be transferred into her name.

International Divorce Issues

Who sues whom, how do you sue for divorce, and in what country are problems in an international divorce? The answers are more difficult than people think. A British divorce might give more money because British courts can disregard prenuptial agreements, and the cost of living is high in London.

In France, things could be very different. Adultery can be penalized, but in the typical French divorce, any alimony could be less and for eight years at most; and prenuptial agreements are binding.

However, in Florida, the outcome could be different still. Under Florida law, alimony is constantly under threat of a major revision by the legislature, and child support is governed by a formula. Courts may award attorneys’ fees, and prenuptial agreements are generally enforceable.

Rules about children can differ too. I’ve written on international divorces, especially as they relate to child custody issues and The Hague Convention on abduction.

The Hague Abduction Convention is a multilateral treaty developed by The Hague Conference on Private International Law to provide for the prompt return of a child internationally abducted by a parent from one-member country to another.

There are three essential elements to every Hague Convention case:

  1. The child must be under the age of 16 years of age;
  2. The wrongful removal must be a violation of the left behind parent’s “rights of custody;”
  3. The left behind parent’s rights of custody “were actually being exercised or would have been exercised but for the removal.”

So, if a child under the age of sixteen has been wrongfully removed, the child must be promptly returned to the child’s country of habitual residence, unless certain exceptions apply. Even signatory countries may be bad at abiding by the convention, especially when it means enforcing the return of children to a parent alleged to have been abusive.

Hiding assets is a problem in every divorce, especially the British case. The problem of discovery of hidden wealth is even bigger in an international divorce because multiple countries, and multiple rules on discovery, can be involved. The problems in an international divorce are more complicated because hiding assets from a spouse is much easier in some countries than in others.

Florida, at one extreme, requires complete disclosure of assets and liabilities. In fact, in Florida certain financial disclosure is mandatory. At the other extreme, are countries which require very little disclosure from people going through divorce.

Choosing possible countries to file your divorce in can be construed as “forum shopping”. The European Union introduced a reform called Brussels II, which prevents “forum shopping”, with a rule that the first court to be approached decides the divorce. But the stakes are high: ending up in the wrong legal system, or with the wrong approach, may mean not just poverty but misery.

Back in Britain

Ms Akhmedova had begun legal action in Britain and abroad, taking steps to freeze his assets. Analyzing the latest stage of litigation, a judge said Ms Akhmedova has at last succeeded in serving legal papers to her ex-husband in relation to an application to freeze assets.

But the judge said the papers were successfully served on August 22 after an email was sent to Mr Akhmedov’s personal email address without a bounce back. The judge has given details of the hearing in a ruling summarizing the latest developments in the case. Neither of the respondents attended the hearing.

A spokesman for Mr Akhmedov has said his ex-wife’s attempts to seize his assets were “as misguided as the original English High Court” ruling.

The Telegraph article is here.