Princess Haya, a Jordanian princess, and her husband Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, who is the ruler of Dubai, have begun their legal battle in the High Court here in England.
In June it was reported that Princess Haya had fled the UAE and travelled to London where she has been in hiding with the couple’s 11 year old daughter and 7 year old son. She was seen for the first time yesterday when she arrived at the High Court in London. She is the sixth and most junior wife of Sheikh Mohammed who has 23 other children from his various wives. The couple have been married for 15 years.
Princess Haya and Sheikh Mohammed have released a statement confirming that the current proceedings are to determine arrangements for their children and do not concern divorce or finances. It has since been reported that Princess Haya has asked that the children be made wards of Court, which means that the Court will have to approve any major decisions made in relation to them. Princess Haya has also applied for forced marriage protection in relation to one of the children and a non-molestation order in respect of herself. Such an Order is used to protect victims of domestic abuse. Sheikh Mohammed has applied for an order that the children be returned to Dubai immediately.
This week’s hearing will take place before Sir Andrew MacFarlane who is the President of the Family Division. The welfare of the children will be his paramount consideration throughout the case. Sheikh Mohammed requested that reporting restrictions be placed on the matter and Sir Andrew declined to do so, stating that it would be in the public interest for some of the details to be published.
If the couple do divorce here, theirs could be the highest net worth divorce to have ever taken place in this jurisdiction. It is anticipated that they will be seeking to divide assets worth some £4.5 billion.
Both Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya have strong ties to the UK. Sheikh Mohammed is one of the most powerful figures in the British horseracing industry and has a property portfolio here. Princess Haya was educated in England and it is anticipated that she wants to continue living here.
London is often described as ‘the divorce capital of the world’ due to the general principle that no distinction is drawn between the ‘homemaker’ and the ‘breadwinner’. This often results in the financially weaker party achieving a fairer settlement than they may in another jurisdiction.
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