Friday, December 23, 2005

England: Generous Courts; Offshore Trusts

John Charman, the eighth-wealthiest man in the City of London, tried to prevent his wife from gaining access to an offshore trust fund said to be worth 65 million pounds. He failed on Tuesday in his appeal against a High Court order that gives Beverley Charman details of the Bermuda fund and could affect the size of her settlement.

The ruling is the latest to indicate the sympathy of English courts towards wives in the division of wealth. Generous settlements by judges are turning England into the destination of choice for multimillion-pound divorce cases.Divorce lawyers confirmed the prevalence of “forum shopping,” choosing the country in which to obtain the most lucrative alimony. They said that pre-nuptial agreements could become enshrined in law because of recent substantial payouts in English courts.

Charman now lives in Bermuda and owns a home in Florida. The couple’s 27-year marriage ended when Charman, a star of the Lloyd’s insurance market, went to Bermuda in November 2003 and told his wife that he would not be returning to the family home in Sevenoaks, Kent.

Sir Mark Potter, the president of the High Court Family Division and one of three appeal judges who heard the case, said that courts should agree to requests by wives to question the trustees of offshore trusts, to achieve a fair settlement.