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The UK government is considering turning the UK into a ‘big money divorce haven' if the Brexit talks falter, Family Law Hub can reveal.

The plans are set out in a draft White Paper circulating in Whitehall at the moment that would see the divorce haven idea introduced alongside any moves for the UK to become a low tax offshore competitor to Europe.

According to the paper, such a move would leverage the UK’s perceived reputation as the ‘divorce capital of the world’ to encourage wealthy people to divorce under a UK 'petition of convenience' if BIIA no longer applies. It would also help fund the online divorce capabilities currently in development by the MoJ and protect legal jobs in the face of reduced mobility of labour following any exit from the Single Market.

The change would be achieved by creating a new ‘significant financial connection’ qualification that would bring within the UK divorce jurisdiction anyone who 
  • a) has a substantial interest in any company, trust, partnership or property operating out of the UK or any of its offshore Crown dependencies or 
  • b) is currently married to such an individual. 
There will be no requirement to have lived or married in the jurisdiction and interpretation of ‘significant’ will be open to judicial discretion as this will allow qualification for those with a portfolio spread across many smaller interests. However, qualification would be subject to a minimum matrimonial acquest value of at least £1m (at current exchange rates; this may change in 2 years time).

As with the Great Repeal Bill, details about procedure and enforcement are still sketchy,
 particularly about who files first, but it is known that applicants would be encouraged to apply online and there would be a significantly enhanced court fee, probably tied to the acquest at stake. Alongside that the parties could elect to have the case heard entirely in private, without resorting to arbitration, as the need for public scrutiny as a matter of policy would fall away. Alternatively a special televised celebrity divorce could be arranged for those who could benefit from the additional exposure.

Questioned about the plans a spokesman for the MoJ was quick to promote the benefits of such a scheme

“As we head towards wider global trading outside the EU, and as the growing use of online services starts to break down existing jurisdictional boundaries, there are tremendous opportunities for the UK to use our undoubted expertise in handling big money financial remedy claims to soften any Brexit blows.

Our family lawyers have enormous expertise in offshore trusts, tax havens and LLPs so just think how keen such asset holders might be to get divorced in a friendly, discreet and increasingly tax-efficient jurisdiction.”

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