Aristocrat calls on judges to let ’empty shell’ of marriage be dissolved

·3-min read
Charles Villiers and his estranged wife Emma are embroiled in the latest round of a seven-year legal fight (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)
Charles Villiers and his estranged wife Emma are embroiled in the latest round of a seven-year legal fight (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)

An aristocrat who became embroiled in a Supreme Court battle after separating from his wife has called on judges to allow their “empty shell of a marriage” to “finally” be dissolved.

Charles Villiers, who is in his late 50s, and estranged wife Emma Villiers, who is in her early 60s, hit the headlines after becoming involved in an argument over whether they should fight over money in a Scottish or English court.

Mr Villiers argued they were divorcing in Scotland and should therefore fight over money in a Scottish court.

But Supreme Court justices ruled against him.

Three Court of Appeal judges are now analysing the latest stage of the legal battle, which began seven years ago.

Lord Justice Moylan, Lord Justice Coulson and Lord Justice Arnold were told on Wednesday the couple are still legally married, a decade after separating.

A barrister representing Mr Villiers said it is time to put the litigation “to bed”.

Mrs Villiers wants appeal judges to overturn rulings about money made by a judge based in the Family Division of the High Court in March 2021.

She says Mr Villiers has not given full details of his finances.

Mr Justice Mostyn had concluded Mr Villiers could not afford to pay the maintenance Mrs Villiers said she should get.

He said Mr and Mrs Villiers had been left “financially ruined” by the “terrible” litigation and he suspected both were also “psychologically damaged”.

Emma Villiers has appealed against rulings made by a High Court judge in 2021 (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)
Emma Villiers has appealed against rulings made by a High Court judge in 2021 (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)

Michael Horton QC, who is leading Mr Villiers’s legal team, argued Mrs Villiers’s appeal should be dismissed.

“It is now time to put this litigation to bed, and to allow what has been an empty shell of a marriage since 2012 finally to be dissolved by a Scottish court,” he told appeal judges, in a written case outline.

“… the appeal should be dismissed.”

Philip Cayford QC, who led Mrs Villiers’s legal team, said decisions made by Mr Justice Mostyn should be overturned.

“The hearing of this matter has been blighted by (Mr Villiers’s) continued failure to provide full and frank disclosure of his financial position,” he said, in a written case outline.

“The effect of the learned judge’s finding is to permit (Mr Villiers) to profit from his ongoing breach of court orders.”

Judges have heard how Mr and Mrs Villiers had lived near Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire.

They had separated in 2012 after 18 years of marriage – Mr Villiers still lives in Scotland and Mrs Villiers lives in London.

Another London-based judge, who considered the litigation at an early stage, had concluded in 2015 that Mr Villiers should pay Mrs Villiers £2,500 a month in maintenance pending the conclusion of the dispute.

Mr Villiers had not paid and Mrs Villers said she was owed several hundred thousand pounds.

But Mr Justice Mostyn did not order Mr Villiers to pay the money Mrs Villiers says she is entitled to.

He concluded Mr Villiers was “not able to pay”.

Mr Justice Mostyn said both Mr and Mrs Villiers had made accusations against the other after “love” turned to “hatred”.

Judges have heard Mr Villiers is a relative of the Duchess of Cornwall.

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