Former Model wins £75 million divorce settlement

Naomi Hayward

Partner & Collaborative Lawyer

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July 18, 2016

Categories Family Law

A former international model Christina Estrada aged 54 who had been married to billionaire Sheikh Walid Juffali aged 61 has been awarded £75,000,000 making it the largest divorce settlement in English history.  This award adds weight to London’s ever growing reputation as the divorce capital of the world.  The parties had been married for 12 years and have a teenage daughter together.   Ms Estrada estimated the Sheikh’s fortune at £8bn whereas he said that her figure is grossly overestimated and more like £113.8m.

Earlier on in the proceedings Mr Juffali had attempted to rely on diplomatic immunity preventing Ms Estrada from bringing her financial claims.  The Sheikh relied on his appointment as a Caribbean diplomat in London.  However, the court found Mr Juffali had ‘not undertaken any duties of any kind’ since taking up his post and further that there was no evidence he had any knowledge of the role whatsoever.  As a result, the court refused to strike out Ms Estrada financial application.  The parties had an earlier financial settlement in place which resulted in a monthly payment to Ms Estrada of £69,360 as well as the Sheikh having bought her a $12 million house in Beverley Hills.

Notwithstanding the huge pay out she received, which included a £53 million cash payment to be paid to her by 4pm on 29th July, Ms Estrada may in fact have been a little disappointed because her award fell far short of her stated capital and income needs.  Ms Estrada had maintained that she needed a luxury home in London worth £60 million, a £4.4 million house in Henley-on-Thames and £495,000 for 5 cars which allowed for 3 in London and 2 in the US.  Further,  Ms Estrada’s case included needs of £1 million a year for clothes, including £40,000 for fur coats, £109,000 for haute couture dresses and £21,000 for shoes.   The total amount she had actually been seeking was a staggering £238,000,000.

Mr Juffali had already bought Ms Estrada a luxury home in Beverley Hills and been responsible for making her wealthy in her own right with an estimated £20million of assets.   Mr Juffali additionally proposed to pay Ms Estrada £17m in cash and give her the use (paid for by him) of a £6.5 million home in London in their daughter’s name for the next 5 years.

Mrs Justice Roberts said in her ruling that she did not accept that Ms Estrada’s needs were ‘anything approaching’ £60 million for a house in London.  Mrs Roberts went on to state that she took a similar view in respect of the sums Ms Estrada was seeking on maintaining her lifestyle in England and California.  Notwithstanding the astronomical award it seems that some restraint was applied and Mrs Justice Roberts referred to Baroness Hale’s observations that there should be a ‘gentle transition from the marital standard of living to that which Ms Estrada can expect as a self-sufficient woman’.

The sums bandied around in this case are beyond the comprehension of ordinary people.  However, this case does highlight the need for some certainty in the court’s approach to capital needs and spousal maintenance awards.  The author observes that this was the Sheik’s second marriage and he has apparently already married his 3rd wife (allegedly before divorcing Ms Estrada).  I hope he took steps to protect his assets before embarking upon marrying wife number three.

Considering remarriage, or marrying for the first time? Give serious thought to a prenuptial agreement

If you are considering re marrying or even marrying for the first time, given the unpredictability of family litigation (not to mention the associated legal costs) you should give serious thought to a prenuptial agreement.   Even if you are already married and perhaps anticipate an inheritance, you can attempt to control the division of your assets and payment of any maintenance in the event of separation with a post nuptial settlement.

These agreements are not formally binding in England and Wales.  However, they have been regarded by the court as persuasive and in some cases, decisive.  Any pre or post nuptial agreement may influence the outcome of a financial application, within divorce either as part of all the circumstances of the case that the court has a duty to consider, or as conduct that it would be inequitable to disregard.  In 2010 there was a landmark Supreme Court decision in a case known as ‘ Radmacher (formerly Granatino) v Granatino’ which has since paved the way for changes in this area of law.

If you would like advice on any family law matters please contact a members of Furley Page’s family Law team on: 01227 763939.