A Nigerian couple who are naturalized British citizens received word that the London courts had overturned their Nigerian divorce judgment. Many lawyers in England are ecstatic by the developments.
The case came to public scrutiny last year when the wife sued the husband in the London courts. The husband had obtained a divorce judgment in Lagos that basically left his wife of 38 years destitute, and gave him over £600,000. Says the UK Telegraph:
Mr Agbaje issued divorce proceedings in the Nigerian court which awarded his former wife a life interest in a property in Lagos and a lump sum equivalent to about £21,000.
But she went to the High Court in London where a judge awarded her a lump sum of £275,000 – almost 40 per cent of the former couple’s assets.
Is this the right result? Well, most countries give comity to foreign divorce judgments. Here in New York, the courts give full faith and credit to legitimate court orders and judgments in foreign jurisdictions. But I am willing to bet that the husband in this case specifically chose Nigeria because of the backwardness in their jurisprudence (particularly with regard to marriage and family issues) and one-sided sexist result he knew he would get. That is forum shopping and was sneaky and evil. That he was willing to leave this aged woman practically penniless was also evil. Where is your heart and sense of fairness? This was a woman you were married to for nearly 40 years you egg head!
So yes. While I think that normally the courts should respect foreign judgments, I think the English courts got this one right. This Nigerian decree was unfair on its face and lacked equity. And after all, she is just as much an English citizen as she is Nigerian. The English courts have an interest in protecting it’s citizens and in particular, in preventing married people (women in particular) from becoming a public charge. If they had upheld the Nigerian judgment, the court would have effectively left the wife’s welfare in the hands of the English tax payers while the husband wallows in the largess of the marital assets and drives around London in fancy expensive German cars picking up younger chicks.
Bravo the the court for getting this one right.