Christina Estrada, 54, sought £238 million from her former husband Sheikh Walid Juffali, 61. The parties had been married for 13 years and have one daughter together. According to the Guardian, Ms Estrada had claimed that she required £1 million a year for clothes, including £40,000 for fur coats, £109,000 for haute couture dresses and £21,000 for shoes. The total settlement of £75 million included a cash payment of £53 million.
Ms Estrada is a US citizen who has been in the UK since 1988. Mr Juffali divorced Ms Estrada in Saudi Arabia in 2014 under Islamic law, without her knowledge. In 2012, Mr Juffali married a 25 year old Lebanese model, mother of his two youngest children, whilst still married to Ms Estrada. In Saudia Arabia, Muslim men are permitted to have more than one wife.
Ms Estrada had to obtain permission from the Court under part 3 of the 1984 Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act to apply for financial relief in England, as she could not bring a case in Saudi Arabia. Mr Juffali had tried to use his status as a diplomat to avoid any divorce proceedings in England however this defence was rejected by the High Court and the Court of Appeal confirmed that Mr Juffali’s permanent residence in the UK prevented him from using this defence and avoiding such protection against his former wife’s financial claims.
Following the hearing Ms Estrada said: ‘I am very grateful for today’s ruling. I have lived in the United Kingdom since 1988 and am thankful for access to the British courts. I never wanted to be here. I always wanted to resolve the matter amicably. This process has been incredibly bruising and distressing. Walid and I were happily married for 12 years and have a beautiful daughter together. He both took a second wife and divorced me without my knowledge…His use of diplomatic immunity to try and prevent me from access to a legally binding settlement set a worrying precedent’
London has a well-established reputation as the one of the ‘divorce capitals’ of the world with a legal system which is said to be more generous to the ‘poorer’ spouse than in many other countries. This case reaffirms the fact it is becoming increasingly common for spouses resident in other countries to relocate to England and seek out the English courts to divorce their former husband/wife or to apply for financial relief.
In order to bring a claim under part 3 of the Matrimonial and Family Proceeding Act 1984, as Ms Estrada did, you need to have a valid marriage, a divorce with judicial involvement and you must also meet the jurisdictional requirements to bring a claim in the English courts. If you have married or currently live abroad and are interested in discussing your options further please contact a member of our team for more advice.