Come to Scotland – a land full of history, stunning scenery…and cheap divorces

SCOTS lawyers are witnessing a surge in "divorce tourism", with wealthy husbands raising actions north of the Border to prevent their wives from cashing in on England's generous divorce laws.

Family lawyers have been inundated with requests for advice from successful businessmen on six-figure salaries, who want to know which jurisdiction will see them better off financially.

Under Scots law, there tends to be a "clean break" with a share of the assets, while in England the wife would usually get a proportion of the assets as well as a maintenance order for life – effectively a share of his future earnings.

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Legal experts say men are planning their divorces months or even years in advance, allowing them to raise an action in Scotland to ensure a better financial settlement.

The phrase "forum shopping" is widely used among solicitors to explain the phenomenon of clients choosing where to file for divorce.

Rachael Kelsey, an expert in family law with the Edinburgh firm Sheehan Kelsey Oswald, said "forum shopping" was on the rise and the financial outcome for divorced women in Scotland was "dramatically different" to that in England.

"Nine times out of ten, a woman would be better placed in England, if the man is the breadwinner," said Ms Kelsey.

"It is very unusual in Scotland for wives to get money post- divorce. More and more people are coming to get advice about where to put in a claim."

She cited examples where the husband was earning 1 million a year in Scotland, but the wife was left in poverty on completion of the divorce, struggling to make ends meet while bringing up their children.

Ms Kelsey believes the Scottish system is unfair. She said: "It is hugely sexist. The woman makes a sacrifice to give up her job or to look after the children.

"In Scotland, women are not getting a share of his future earnings, when the only reason he has made that money is due to her contribution during the marriage."

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Ms Kelsey said that a mobile workforce, in which many executives regularly commute between England and Scotland or within the rest of Europe, could account for the growth of "divorce tourism".

"There's much more mobility in employment now. There's a lot more cross-Border work between England and Scotland. And the financial services sector has developed massively.

"The men are coming to us for advice. They tend to earn more and have more to lose."

In recent years, there have been a number of prominent English cases where high awards of maintenance have been granted to wives throughout their lifetime following divorce, including "the McFarlane judgment" from 2006.

Lawyers insist there are few such cases in Scotland, due to fundamental differences in legislation.

In the case of Kenneth and Julia McFarlane, both lawyers who were married for 16 years, the court awarded her maintenance of 250,000 a year.

This, the court said, was to compensate her for the years when she was looking after the couple's children and could not pursue her own career.

Although Mrs McFarlane admitted she required only 128,000 per year to maintain her affluent lifestyle, she asked for more, based on her contribution as a loyal wife and mother to her husband's success.

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But Ranald Lindsay, a family lawyer, said the situation "worked both ways" and if the woman was the higher earner, she would benefit from raising an action in Scotland. He said there were always going to be "winners and losers" in divorces, both in Scotland and England.

"If the husband is the homemaker and the woman is the breadwinner, she would benefit from a divorce in Scotland. Whichever way you go, someone is going to be unhappy.

"In Scotland, we are used to the idea of a clean break and not a financial obligation for life."

'I would be much better off if we had divorced in England'

WHEN Barbara Foot's husband threw a lavish party at the family home to celebrate his 60th birthday, she had no idea that, weeks later, he would want a divorce.

But she recalled: "One day I came home to find him pacing the kitchen floor. He just said he had found someone else."

After 36 years together, and with the family's assets amounting to 1.4 million and her husband earning a six-figure salary, Mrs Foot presumed that her future would be secure after they divorced in February 2007.

She never dreamed she would be struggling to make ends meet, but she said: "I sold all my paintings, my jewellery, even my wedding ring. I lived off my jewellery.

"I'm at the stage where I have to watch my heating and phone bills. I'm having to watch every penny."

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Mrs Foot, 62, said she gave up a teaching career and left her family in Canada to start a new life with her husband in his native Scotland. They had agreed that she would be the home-maker, raising their two daughters, to allow him to reach the pinnacle of his career as a chartered accountant.

Living in an affluent Edinburgh suburb, she enjoyed all the trappings of wealth – smart clothes, fine jewellery and beautiful paintings.

Mrs Foot believes very strongly that, had she divorced in England, she would have been far better off financially.

The family home, worth about 500,000, had to be sold and, after paying off the mortgage, she down-sized to a modest three-bedroom flat.

She claimed she deserved a hefty slice of her husband's pension and a share of his future earnings.

"If I had divorced in England. I would have been vastly better off," she said. "You lose your dignity in the eyes of Scots law and society, because they are saying your contribution as a wife and mother has no financial value or status."

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