Aristocrat’s estranged wife wins latest round of seven-year court fight

·3-min read

An aristocrat’s estranged wife has won the latest round of their seven-year legal battle.

Charles and Emma Villiers hit the headlines after becoming involved in an argument about whether they should fight over money in a Scottish or English court.

Mr Villiers argued they were divorcing in Scotland and should therefore have financial decisions decided in a Scottish court.

But Supreme Court justices ruled against him.

Three Court of Appeal judges have now analysed the latest stage of the legal battle.

Mrs Villiers has persuaded Lord Justice Moylan, Lord Justice Coulson and Lord Justice Arnold to overturn a ruling about money made by a judge based in the Family Division of the High Court in March 2021.

The three appeal judges have decided that Mr Justice Mostyn had been wrong to dismiss an application Mrs Villiers made for maintenance.

They had considered arguments at a Court of Appeal hearing in London in January and published a ruling on Friday.

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

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”.

But Lord Justice Moylan said he had reached the “clear conclusion” Mr Justice Moylan was wrong to dismiss Mrs Villiers’ application.

Lord Justice Coulson and Lord Justice Arnold agreed.

Aristocrat money fight
Appeal judges based at the Royal Courts of Justice have ruled on the latest round of a seven year fight between Charles and Emma Villiers (Aaron Chown/PA)

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

“The hearing of this matter has been blighted by (Mr Villiers’) continued failure to provide full and frank disclosure of his financial position,” he had told appeal judges.

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

Michael Horton QC, who led Mr Villiers’ legal team, argued that Mrs Villiers’ 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 had told appeal judges. “The appeal should be dismissed.”

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 that 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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