A Supreme Court ruling which will allow an aristocrat’s estranged wife to divorce in Scotland but fight over money in England will have implications, lawyers have warned.
Charles and Emma Villiers married in England in 1994 but spent most of their married life in Scotland before separating after 18 years.
They lived near Dumbarton and are divorcing in Scotland, but disagree about whether arguments over money should be heard in an English or Scottish court.
Mr Villiers said that, because divorce proceedings are taking place in Scotland, any fight over money should also be staged in Scotland.
However, his estranged wife, who now lives in England, said the cash dispute should take place south of the border.
She said England is more convenient for her and she thinks she might walk away from the marriage with more than she would in Scotland.
Mr Villiers appealed to the Supreme Court after losing fights in the High Court and Court of Appeal in London.
Five Supreme Court justices have now ruled against him, by a majority of three to two.
The justices had considered the dispute at a Supreme Court hearing in London in December, and dismissed Mr Villiers’ appeal on Wednesday.
They concluded that Mrs Villiers could make a claim for money in England and decided that the English and the Scottish proceedings are not “related actions”.
Lawyer Andrew Newbury, of Hall Brown Family Law, said the ruling might result in an increase in the number of wives pursuing maintenance through the English courts.
“This judgment arguably reinforces the view of London being the divorce capital of the world,” he said.
“Courts here tend to take a more generous approach to spousal maintenance than they do in other European countries.
“The attitude of the English courts to maintenance provision is, in particular, poles apart from that of their counterparts in Scotland.”
He added: “What that means is that we might well see more wives who are able to demonstrate a reason why their cases should be heard in English courts coming here to claim maintenance.
Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell said Supreme Court justices had concluded that Mrs Villiers was entitled to make a “maintenance claim” in England because she was a resident in London when she launched her application.
They said English courts are “popular with financially weaker parties” and the ruling would add to the debate around “divorce tourism”.
Lawyer Alex Carruthers, of Hughes Fowler Carruthers, said: “Although close geographically, Scotland and England are worlds apart in their treatment of parties on divorce. This case opens up the possibility of exploiting that gap even more in the future.”
Mr and Mrs Villiers are listed on the website www.thepeerage.com.
The website provides a “genealogical survey” of the peerage in Britain.
Lawyers representing Mr Villiers say he is a relative of the Duchess of Cornwall.