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Strange Divorce Ruling

There have been a number of landmark cases that have set precedents for divorce and divorce laws. However, the majority of those were positive and propelled divorce into the 21st century. This being said, across the world, divorce is still seemingly catching up, and in a few rare cases, falling behind, thanks to the laws that were decreed so long ago before the new age of technology.

One instance of a set back in divorce laws is that of Mr. and Mrs. Prest, a case coming out of the United Kingdom in 2012. Mr. Prest, is a notoriously wealthy oil tycoon of African descent and when his wife filed for divorce she intended to take him for all he was worth. This included £17.5 million (roughly $28.1 million) of his estimated net worth of £37.5 million. Voted one of Britain’s most influential and wealthy men, fighting this case would be tough, but he intended to do so anyway.

Mr. Michael Prest fought the case, stating that he was not worth the estimated 35.7 million pounds that his wife claimed he was worth, because his companies were not directly owned by him, and the money was only an estimated net worth, and could never be proven to be 100% accurate. However, this was only the smallest of the reasons that he stated his wife deserved far less in their settlement. His main reasoning is one that has been unheard of to date.

In his arguments against the sum that his wife, Yasmine, was filing for, Mr. Prest claimed under ‘native’ African law,  his oil company didn’t belong to him. In a grueling back and forth affair that saw both parties in and out of courts for a lengthy period of time, precedent was being set in that Mr. Prest’s reasoning had never been used in a defense before. Lawyers and judges alike had to tread lightly on the ruling, as if they didn’t, backlash worldwide could have been sparked.

Now, even though Mr. Prest had been found to be in control of the company’s assets, the divorce judge simply had no power to find that he was personally entitled to the properties or to legally allocate and award them to Mr. Prest’s ex-wife.

Mr. Prest was ordered to pay maintenance of £24,000 a year for each of his four children, along with their private school fees and medical bills. Lawyers for the three companies that bought the appeal insisted that their assets did not belong to Mr Prest but are ‘held in trust’ for his children and the children of his four siblings in Africa, under Nigerian Itsekiri customary law. Mr Prest received a gift of £10,000 ‘seed money’ from his Nigerian father before he died in 1992, and he used that cash as the foundation stone on which he built his oil and property empire. Under customary law in Nigeria, his father’s death left Mr Prest as head of his family, with a responsibility to use his late father’s money to look after his siblings and their children, his legal team argued.

And so it was, that Michael Prest was able to significantly lower the amount of alimony paid to his wife for her to maintain the lifestyle that she was accustomed too, and the same for their children. It’s not everyday that an African law can be used and cited as the main reasoning behind keeping more money than is generally allocated, but I know for a fact that Mr. Prest is not complaining. I’m sure its only a matter of time before another weird divorce story surfaces and rivals this one all the way to the end.

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