Weekly Family Law Update June 6, 2021

A superyacht, sentencing mothers and Chinese divorce

Court refuses to transfer superyacht to wife

The former wife of a Russian oligarch has failed in an attempt to have a superyacht belonging to her ex-husband transferred to her.

In 2016 the High Court in London awarded Tatiana Akhmedova a divorce settlement of £453 million. However, her ex-husband, Farkhad Akhmedov, has failed to comply with the order, leaving her to take enforcement action.

As part of her efforts to recover the money due to her Ms Akhmedova has been endeavouring to seize a superyacht belonging to Mr Akhmewdov. The yacht, named ‘Luna’, is presently docked in Dubai, and is estimated to be worth £225 million.

Ms Akhmedova applied to a court in the Marshall Islands, where the yacht is registered, for an order transferring the ownership of the yacht to her. The court made the order, but subsequently ruled that it could not enforce it, as only a court in Dubai could enforce a change of ownership.

To date, Ms Akhmedova has reportedly only recovered some £45 million of her settlement.

Judges urged to consider interests of children when sentencing mothers

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has urged the Government to use the passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to put right some of the injustices relating to the sentencing of mothers for criminal offences.

The Committee has tabled new clauses to the Bill which will require judges to consider Pre Sentence Reports including information about children before sentencing a mother; require judges to take into account the best interests of the child; and require Government to gather and publish data on how many children are born in prison and how many children are separated from their mother in prison.

Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Harriet Harman MP said:

“A young child’s separation from its mother when she’s sent to prison risks lifelong damage to that crucial relationship. Yet, too often, the child is invisible in the court process. This must change.

“Most mothers who are in prison have committed non-violent crimes. And it’s appalling that there’s so little concern for children that the Government doesn’t even know how many children are suffering separation from their mother by imprisonment.

“There will be much backing from MPs from all parties for these law changes proposed by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.”

Chinese divorces down 70% after introduction of ‘cooling off’ period

The number of divorces in China dropped by more than 70% in the first quarter of this year, after a controversial new law requiring a ‘cooling-off’ period for divorcing couples came into effect.

The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs said 296,000 divorces were registered in the first three months of 2021, down more than 70% from 1.06 million in the previous quarter. The same quarter in 2019 saw 1.05 million divorces registered in the country.

Under a new law that came into effect in January couples wishing to apply for a divorce by agreement must go through a 30-day ‘cooling off’ period, before the divorce can be finalised. Either party can withdraw their agreement during that period, and if the couples don’t show up for two appointments between 30 and 60 days after applying, their application is automatically cancelled.

The law was introduced to stop couples divorcing ‘on impulse’, but has been criticised for undermining the freedom to divorce, with some couples reportedly being unable to get appointments before the time period ran out. It has also been suggested that the new law will deter couples from getting married at all.