Miércoles 7 de Junio de 2006, Ip nº 156

Trip to London, darling?
Por Andrea Gerlin

Britain has the seventh highest divorce rate in Europe, 2.8 a year for every 1,000 people, according to Eurostat (at top is the Czech Republic). But is Britain about to leap up the chart? It could. Landmark rulings by Britain's House of Lords last week may, some lawyers predict, make England and Wales a divorce magnet, because the rulings have been so generous to financially dependent spouses. In one case, the judges upheld a $9.4 million award to a woman who'd been married to a fund manager worth $60 million. In the second case, the judges lifted the five-year limit imposed by a lower court on annual maintenance payments of $468,000 to the ex-wife of an accountant who earned $1.4 million a year; she will now receive those payments until she remarries or one of them dies.

What do they have in common? Both women had given up careers after marriage; the rulings imply that the divorce settlements should compensate them for their sacrifice. It's not just women who are winning; judges at the Court of Appeal last week ordered a wealthy woman to boost payments to her ex-husband.

It's too early to say whether the rulings will scare people off marriage or lead to more divorces. But some lawyers predict that unhappy spouses around the world may scheme their way to England or Wales (Scotland is governed under different laws), turning those countries into divorce havens for anyone — such as expatriates or dual nationals — who can claim ties there. "It will cause an influx of people trying to get divorced in England and Wales," says Andrew Greensmith, a district judge and chairman of an association of family lawyers in England and Wales. To qualify, all a jaded spouse would need is to regularly live in the country for a year (or less, in some cases) or to have ties based on birth or citizenship. With "medical tourism" now an established subindustry, could "divorce tourism" be about to take off?

  28/05/2006. Time Magazine.