Sunday Times caption: Pauline Chai, who was awarded £64m in her divorce from the Laura Ashley owner, would not have been able to fight the case without a loan, her daughter said DWAYNE SENIOR
A piece in today’s Sunday Times by Nicholas Hellen, Social Affairs Editor:
Women trapped in marriages to rich husbands are to be given access to a £10m “fighting fund” to protect them from being ground down until they accept derisory divorce settlements.
It will allow them to instruct eminent lawyers capable of taking on their spouses, with a promise to repay the sum when they settle.
The fund, announced by Vardags, a law firm for high net worth individuals, coincides with a government consultation on introducing no-fault divorce. But Ayesha Vardag, the firm’s founder, insisted that the fund was not intended to undermine marriage.
“The Access to Justice Fund is about giving equality of arms to the weaker party in divorce,” she said.
“The party who has been kicked out of their home, starved of finance and abused, economically or otherwise. The party whose spouse said, ‘I’ll get the best lawyers and I’ll destroy you — you’ll come out of this with nothing.’”
She said it meant the financially weaker spouse — which could be the husband [J4MB: But won’t be] — would be able to say: “You can’t bully me.”
The loan must be paid back regardless of the settlement because contingent fees (“no win no fee”) are not allowed in divorce cases.
Pauline Chai, 72, a former Miss Malaysia, made use of an informal version of the loan in her divorce last year from the Laura Ashley owner Dr Khoo Kay Peng, 80. She was awarded £64m although this is being contested.
This weekend her daughter, Angeline Francis Khoo, 35, said that without a loan her mother would have been unable to divorce.
“Nobody wants to get divorced. You have to be desperate to take that step. All this does is create a more democratic position.”
Her mother famously had a collection of 1,000 shoes, but Khoo said: “From the outside they have access to mansions, planes and luxuries but if nothing is in your name, there is no control over your life.” [J4MB emphasis]
It has also emerged that the crowdfunding website, CrowdJustice, has discussed opening its platform to people who want to seek donations for their divorce.
Jo Edwards, head of family at Forsters, a London law firm, who was canvassed by CrowdJustice, said it was “an interesting and arguably inevitable development” after legal aid for most family cases was withdrawn in 2013.
Julia Salasky, founder of CrowdJustice, said the platform — which had hosted an appeal for funds by a heterosexual couple seeking a civil partnership — would only consider campaigns for divorce cases “in accordance with high standards of privacy and ethics”.
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