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How Princess Haya’s £554m Award Confirms London’s Status As The Divorce Capital Of The World

London has long been established as the preeminent centre of the world for divorcing high-net-worth couples, in large part because law courts here are known to award sizeable settlements to the financially less well-off party. This reputation was cemented in 2000 in the case of White v White, involving Martin and Pamela White, who had three children together and divorced after 30 years of marriage. During the case which reached the House of Lords, it was concluded that the couple’s £4.5m net worth should be split 57% to Mr White and 43% to Mrs White. Crucially, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead made it clear that in such cases, “There should be no bias in favour of the money-earner and against the home-maker and the child-carer”. The judgement went on to say, “As a general guide, equality should be departed from only if, and to the extent that, there is good reason for doing so”. Many high profile separations have now passed through London’s divorce courts, including that of Paul McCartney and Heather

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Mills (Ms Mills received a settlement of £24.3m) in 2008, and Bernie Ecclestone and ex-wife Slavica (Slavica Ecclestone receives £60m per year from her ex-husband) in 2009. Most recently, Her Royal Highness Haya Bint Al-Hussain received the largest ever settlement in British legal history of £554m from the Ruler of Dubai, His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, reconfirming London’s status as the divorce capital of the world.

Background to the divorce of Princess Haya from Sheikh Mohammad

The details of the divorce of Princess Haya from Sheikh Mohammad are notable not just because of the sheer scale of the settlement but also the background of the case. Princess Haya Bint Al-Hussain is the daughter of Jordan’s former King Hussein and married Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoumon on 10th April 2004, becoming the youngest of six wives. The settlement followed a long-running custody battle, in which Princess Haya fled Dubai in 2009 to London along with her children, citing serious concerns for their safety. Her concern related to a High Court judgement in 2019 in which it was ruled that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum had previously abducted his other daughters, Sheikha Latifa Mohammed al-Maktoum and Sheikha Shamsa al- Maktoum, and held them against their will in Dubai. As a result and following several threats, Princess Haya had a real concern that her daughters would be abducted and returned to Dubai against their will. This was further reinforced after it was discovered that Sheikh Mohammed had ordered the hacking of the mobile phones of Princess Haya, her bodyguards and her legal team using spyware developed in Israel called Pegasus.

What did the Family Court rule in the divorce of Princess Haya from Sheikh Mohammad?

On 19th November 2021, in the Royal Courts of Justice Family Court, Mr Justice Moor ruled on the divorce case of Princess Haya from Sheikh Mohammad, specifically in relation to three applications; 1) a settlement for two children of the marriage, Jalila and Zayed, 2) financial provision following an overseas divorce and 3) declarations as to the ownership of various horses, jewellery, and other artefacts. Justice Moor made the following award in favour of Princess Haya and her two daughters, Jalila and Zayed:

Security – a lumpsum payment of £251,500,000 (£210m + £41.5m); Education – £3,040,000;
Maintenance and other costs – £5,600,000 to be paid each year for each child.

As such, this is believed to be the highest ever divorce settlement awarded in an English Court. The amounts awarded cover a range of costs, including education, holidays, visas, living costs, refurbishments, employee wages, IT costs, a vehicle fleet manager, VAT and other taxes, utility bills and insurance costs, wear and tear, horses and horse equipment, vets, nanny’s, tutors, and nurses. A sizeable portion of this award relates to security costs, given the extreme level of threat posed to Princess Haya and her daughters. Citing Princess Haya’s Head of Security, Justice Moor explained, “He [the Head of Security] considered that, although the threat level to HRH changes daily, it remains of a significant magnitude at all times. He exhibited his security assessment. He assessed the current threat level as “severe”. In other words, an attack is highly likely at some point, given the proven history of abduction. If there is a vulnerability in HRH’s security, the threat level rises to “critical”, which means an attack is highly likely in the near future.

In addition to the main threat from HH, there; plus the ever-present risk of kidnap and ransom”.

Final words

While it is true that the scale of the divorce settlement, in this case, is the highest of its kind in London, the background and circumstances of those receiving the awards are by no means normal. As Justice Moor stated, Princess Haya and her daughters will continue to face a “clear and present” risk to their safety for some time, and hence there is a need to fund effective security. Nevertheless, this case undoubtedly reaffirms London’s place as the capital of the world for divorcing high-net-worth couples.

Edwards Family Law is a niche London-based firm specialising in high-net-worth divorce and international family law. To find out more about divorce and financial settlements, please phone +44 (0)20 7129 7978 or email contact@edwardsfamilylaw.co.uk.
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