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Divorcing in England

Member: Nifa

The German wife of a millionaire banker raced to file a divorce petition in England after she discovered that her husband had taken his mistress to the office party.

However, although Catja Thum filed a petition in England on 26 October 2015, Mr Thum claims that he knew nothing of his wife’s decision until the divorce petition was handed to him four months later. Mr Thum filed for divorce in Germany the day after he found out, but, as Mrs Thum was first, the case will be heard in London.

Appealing the decision of the court, Mr Thum claimed that in the intervening period, Mrs Thum ‘appropriated’ almost £800,000 from their joint bank accounts, including a £30,000 gold bar of which he says was his personal property.

However, the Court of Appeal ruled that because Mrs Thum’s divorce petition was ‘first in time’, it took precedence over the German one so the divorce will be heard in England, which is usually far more beneficial financially for divorcing wives.

The Thums moved to London in 2009 to educate their two sons, and subsequently bought a £3 million four-bedroom apartment. The property and any other assets from the marriage will now be scrutinised so that a financial settlement can be drawn up.

Given the dispute over the jurisdiction in which the case will be heard and Mr Thum’s allegation that Mrs Thum has already taken assets to which he says she was not entitled, the financial settlement is likely to be fiercely contested. Forensic accountants may even be brought in to analyse and report on the couple’s finances.

Roger Isaacs, Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “It is usually the Big Money cases that make the headlines and it is worth spending money on lawyers and forensic accountants if one is arguing over bars of gold and hundreds of thousands of pounds.  That said, in even large cases the costs can easily become disproportionate so it is always better if the parties can resolve their differences without having to go through the cost and stress of a contested trial .”

Author: Roger Isaacs 23 July 2018

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