Relative of Duchess of Cornwall wins right to take Scottish divorce fight to Supreme Court

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Relative of Duchess of Cornwall wins right to take Scottish divorce fight to Supreme Court
Charles Villiers

A relative of the Duchess of Cornwall who has claimed to be the only man in western Europe who “isn't allowed to get divorced” has won the right to take his case to the Supreme Court.

Charles Villiers, a Scottish aristocrat, has accused his former spouse, Emma, 60, of “trying it on” in the English courts as a divorce tourist, claiming she only moved south of the border when they separated in order to apply for maintenance via the more generous English courts.

He lost an initial bid to stop her from claiming £10,000 monthly maintenance payments in London last May, when the Court of Appeal rejected his claim that an English judge had no right to intervene in a Scottish divorce.

However, the Supreme Court has now given him permission to appeal that order, leaving him “pleased and relieved” and hopeful that the case, which has dragged on for several years, will be heard by the five-judge panel before the summer.

The racehorse owner and publishing baron told the Telegraph: “This whole thing is appalling, and also an utter nonsense, requiring divorcing people in Scotland to have two sets of lawyers (in both Scotland and England).”

Mr Villiers, 55, also welcomed draft divorce legislation laid before parliament last month which will form the basis of the UK’s divorce laws after Brexit.

Credit: Richard Gittins

It removes the controversial “first in time" rule that allows a case to be heard in the first country in which a spouse petitions and which critics say discourages parties from trying to reach an agreement, instead leading to a race to the court.

He blames EU maintenance laws, which treat England and Scotland as separate states, for the dispute and says that his wife had effectively been "rewarded for moving from Scotland to England".

Mr and Mrs Villiers married in 1994 and lived together in Milton House, an 18th-century, eight-bedroom Georgian mansion in Dunbartonshire boasting 10 acres of gardens and its own loch.

They separated in 2012 after 17 years, at which point she moved to Notting Hill, London, with their daughter Clarissa, now 23, a photographer.

Mr Villiers filed for divorce in Scotland in 2014, but three months later Mrs Villers applied to the English courts for financial maintenance.

However, Mr Villiers is determined that the case be heard in Scotland, where inherited wealth is not included in divorce settlements and maintenance is limited to three years.

Credit: Champion News

In March 2016, Mrs Justice Parker, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled that Mrs Villiers was “habitually resident” in England and approved £5,500-a-month interim maintenance payments while the final divorce settlement was decided.

Mr Villiers was declared bankrupt in 2013. Although he was discharged from bankruptcy a year, the family manor was repossessed.

But his wife's lawyers claim he has a half share in a £3.5million trust fund plus another £600,000 fund from his mother. They argue that his total inherited wealth "may be much more" if a London flat in a family controlled company is included and have asked for maintenance payments to be increased to £10,000 a month.

Mr Villiers has said: “While all this is happening my life is on hold. I must be the only man in western Europe that isn't allowed to get divorced.

“I want to move on, get remarried and have more children but I can't because Scottish law states that all financial matters must be resolved before a couple can divorce.”

He is related to the Duchess of Cornwall through his late mother, Elizabeth Keppel, a cousin of Sonia Rosemary Keppel, the Duchess’s maternal grandmother.

His grandfather, Derek Keppel, Viscount Bury, was laid to rest in the same burial plot as that of George and Alice Keppel, the Duchess’s great grandparents, in Florence.

Mrs Villiers declined to comment.

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