UK: The Scope Of Financial Relief In England After A Foreign Divorce Is Limited In A ‘Truly International Case’

Z v A [2012] EWCA 467 (Fam) and 1434 (Fam) considered the application of Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (‘the 1984 Act’) which gives the English Court the power to make financial orders following an overseas divorce. This legislation was enacted to alleviate the adverse consequences of no, or inadequate, financial provision being made following a foreign divorce where the parties had substantial connections with England. Arguably, this case sees the law applied in a manner perhaps not anticipated by the legislators.

Z v A concerned a 5-year marriage of a couple who had married abroad and divorced under Sharia law. Both parties acknowledged that neither had any financial claims against the other. They originated from different countries but lived in London for a period of their marriage. The wife had significant connections with England, whereas the husband’s connections were limited and he had no assets in England.

Both parties were wealthy in their own right: the husband with estimated wealth of £34m which had been largely built up during the marriage and the wife had estimated wealth of £7m and the support of a wealthy family. They had one young child.

After their divorce, the wife returned to England (via the US and Europe) where she initiated an application under the 1984 Act seeking a payment from the husband of £10m. She was successful in freezing £12m of the husband’s assets in anticipation of her claim.

Whilst the husband acknowledged his pecuniary responsibility for his child, he argued that he should not pay the wife anything on the basis the divorce had taken place consensually and that they had agreed, orally, that she would have no financial claim.

The case was two-pronged. In the first decision (Z v A [2012] EWCA 467), the Court considered whether the leave granted for the wife’s 1984 Act application should be overturned. The husband argued that there was an express oral pre-nuptial agreement between the parties that neither would make a claim against the other and that this constituted a ‘knock out blow’ preventing the wife’s claim from continuing. He also argued that the wife had not disclosed the true extent of her assets.

The Judge found that the husband had not proved the existence of a clear express pre-nuptial agreement that knocked out the wife’s claim. He held that the Court must be very satisfied with the evidence of an oral agreement for it to import the kind of draconian effect the husband had contended. Nor was the alleged non-disclosure made out.

The Judge did find, however, that he was able to infer from the evidence a broad level of agreement as to how the parties would manage their finances during the marriage, which had been followed through and which he considered to be highly relevant in the determination of quantum.

The Judge also found that the parties intended only to make a claim if either ‘really needed to’. This lead the Judge to conclude that there was no basis for overturning the grant of leave. It also later contributed to his finding that the wife’s claim should be limited by needs (although he only made this finding in the second decision Z v A [2012] EWCA 1434).

In that second decision, the Judge determined the quantum of the wife’s claim. Following principles that were espoused in the leading Supreme Court decision of Agbaje v Agbaje [2010] UKSC 13, the Judge found that the scale of quantum of an award under the 1984 Act should vary depending on the parties’ connections with England and Wales. When the connecting factors are strong, the claim could possibly be treated as a truly English case with the full repertoire of case law principles (of sharing, compensation and needs, as coined in Miller/Macfarlane [2006] UKHL 24) at the Court’s disposal. However, with an international case such as this one the Judge found that it is not appropriate to apply the extra-statutory notions of sharing and compensation and instead the wife’s claim should be assessed purely on the basis of her (and the child’s) needs.

Considering all of the circumstances of the case (e.g. the short length of the marriage, the wife’s own wealth, the inference drawn in relation to discussions prior to marriage and the parties’ separate management of their finances during the marriage) and in the context of the parties’ ‘glittering’, highfaluting standard of living, the Judge held that the wife’s housing and maintenance needs could be met with a lump sum payment of £3m together with child periodical payments of £50,000 per annum.

The ever growing role of pre-nuptial agreements was also highlighted. Had the parties entered into a written pre-nuptial agreement, prepared in accordance with the guidelines in Radmacher v Granatino [2010] UKSC 42, recording the agreement alleged by the husband, then it is possible the wife’s case would have fallen at the first hurdle. This would have saved the parties considerable cost (as well as potentially bringing about a completely different result) as the Judge observed pithily that the ‘… absence of writing has been the main cause for this 8-day hearing’.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.