Court of Appeal permits Russian wife’s divorce settlement case


There are professionals out there involved in family cases who consider London to be the divorce capital of the world, where wives in particular hope to have their case heard before the Family Court in England and Wales in the hope of achieving the best possible financial outcome on divorce. A recent decision in The Court of Appeal has helped to fuel this idea even further as a decision has been made to allow a Russian wife permission to bring financial proceedings against her husband to the High Court.

In Potanina v Potanin [2021] EWCA Civ 702, the court heard that Natalia Potanina and her husband Vladimir Potanin met as teenagers and married in Russia in 1983 where they lived throughout their married life. They have three adult children. In the early days of their marriage the couple were not well off, but the opportunities to create wealth in Russia during the 1990s were such that the husband accumulated vast wealth estimated to be in the region of $20 billion.

The family had a lifestyle to match their wealth but the marriage broke down. There was an argument as to when the marriage came to an end. The husband’s case was that the separation came in 2007 but he acknowledged that the couple did not go through any formal legal separation at that time in order to protect their youngest child from the distress of his parents’ divorce until he was a little older. The husband says the fact that they owned a number of properties allowed this fiction to be maintained and they continued to take family holidays together and to celebrate certain festivals as a family.

The wife’s case was (and still is) that the separation did not come until November 2013 by which time the husband had formed another relationship and had another child. The husband’s announcement that the marriage was over was a devastating ‘bolt out of the blue’ for the wife who had no knowledge of her husband’s affair.

The Russian courts found the year of separation to be 2007. The pronouncement of divorce in Russia on 25 February 2014 led to what the judge described as a ‘blizzard of litigation’. The wife’s application for permission to apply for financial relief pursuant to Part III Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 was granted in January 2019. The husband appealed in November 2019 on the basis the parties had little connection to the jurisdiction n of England and Wales.

However, The Court of Appeal’s most recent decision has been to allow the wife’s appeal and grant her permission to bring the case in the High Court. If the case does proceed it will be one of the biggest divorce award cases to be heard in the English courts and we all now wait to see what the wife is going to do.

Whether the marital assets are in the billions or only worth a few hundred pounds, ideally couples divorcing or separating should really consider whether there is even a need to go to Court. A much better outcome is always going to be where parties have reach mutually acceptable terms of settlement themselves rather than having a judge impose a final order on them. At Barker Gotelee we strive to assist all our clients to achieve as amicable a settlement as is reasonably possible. Contact our family team on 01473 617 317 or 01473 350 569 to book an initial consultation.

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.

Suffolk Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk