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Scottish aristocrat loses maintenance legal battle with estranged wife in Supreme Court

An aristocrat who said he and his estranged wife should argue about the division of money in a Scottish court, not an English court, has lost the five year dispute in the Supreme Court.

Charles Villiers, a relative of the Duchess of Cornwall, and his ex-wife, Emma, lived near Dumbarton but separated after 18 years of marriage and are divorcing in Scotland.

But they disagreed about whether arguments over maintenance should be heard in an English or Scottish court.

Mr Villiers said because divorce proceedings are taking place in Scotland, any fight over money should also be staged in Scotland.

His estranged wife, who now lives in London, said any money fight should be in England.

Supreme Court justices ruled against Mr Villiers on Wednesday.

Solicitor Russell Bywater, who represents Mr Villiers and is based at law firm Dawson Cornwell, said in December that the case pitted the English and Scottish jurisdictions’ “different approaches to spousal maintenance” against each other.

He said if Mr Villiers lost, Scottish divorcees might make money claims in England in the hope of getting bigger payouts.

The legal battle is the first reported cross-border case under EU Maintenance Regulation, introduced in 2011, which treats Scotland and England as two separate states.

It allows either party to make a maintenance claim in the country of their choosing providing they live there – a practice known as forum shopping – but no minimum period of residence is required.

In England, wealthy spouses can be ordered to pay maintenance for life, while crucially, in Scotland it is limited to a three year period.

Mr Villiers, a racehorse owner and scion of one of England’s oldest families, previously told the Telegraph: “This is clearly ludicrous.

“It has given rise to the situation that whereas my divorce can only happen in Scotland my wife can make a standalone application for ‘maintenance’ in England.

“It is now, potentially, an irreconcilable situation.”

A judge based in the Family Division of the High Court in London began considering the dispute in 2015.

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