The Abramovich Divorce

There is much speculation today regarding the very surprising split between Roman Abramovich and his third wife Dasha Zhukova.

The Daily Mail would have us believe that it will be the biggest divorce ever but others believe that the divorce will not be so big and would have been entirely restricted by the contents of a pre-nuptial agreement, the contents of which we may never know.

So, what are the issues surrounding this powerful couple’s split? As a divorce lawyer, I hope to shed some late on the possibilities: –

What are the reasons why this 10-year relationship has suddenly come to an abrupt close?

Each newspaper and media outlet has speculated on the reasons. Is it the age difference between them with Roman Abramovich being 50 years of age and his wife 36?  One issue that has come to the forefront in dealing with these kinds of cases is that whilst in the early stages of a relationship such an age gap matters not, it does have a significant role to play in the reasons why these marriages come to an end.  However, that may not be the singular reason for this marriage to have come to a demise.  The fact is that Roman Abramovich is a self-made man who was orphaned at the age of 4 and according to reports is sensitive about his lack of education.  Dasha on the other hand, is the daughter of a wealthy Russian oil magnate and a mother who was a scientist.   She was born into what is regarded as the Russian intelligentsia and was originally studying to become a doctor.  This was abandoned when she commenced her own fashion brand.  She is from a highly cultured background, he is a self-made business man who has become a billionaire.  The difference in their backgrounds and approach may have emphasized his insecurities as the marriage continued and even inadvertently her smooth, slide into mixing with the wealthy intelligentsia may have further pushed his own feelings into the background.  Is it still the case that wealthy men like a beautiful woman on their arm but do not necessarily like them to be overly intelligent?  It is further said that he likes to spend time with his male associates talking about football (he owns Chelsea Football Club) and other business deals which are of no interest to the art loving young wife to whom he is married.  As time has gone by, the rift and differences have pulled them apart.

Where will they divorce?

England or Russia? The smart thinking in relation to this is that Roman Abramovich will investigate divorce proceedings under the family code of Russia and will most probably in the absence of any pre-nup determining how matters should be dealt with, reach a sensible and quiet agreement with Dasha.  This agreement will then be registered in the Courts in Russia.

Will Dasha instigate divorce proceedings in the UK?

It is more likely that she will come to a better financial outcome if she negotiates this with Roman Abramovich rather than face the discounted settlement that she will have if matters are debated publicly in the High Court or Appeal Courts in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom because this relationship has spanned ten-years with two children, Aaron aged 8 and Leah Lou aged 4, any maintenance claim that she has will be capitalised.  She certainly does have a maintenance claim that would be considered in divorce proceedings in the United Kingdom.  Their standard of living will be a very relevant factor in how the courts will approach the divorce here.  In Russia, the court merely grant maintenance in rare occasions for example if someone is pregnant or within three years of the birth of the child, or where the wife has become disabled during the marriage, or the child disabled and the wife cannot meet her costs of living.  Alternatively, if they are of pensionable age during the first five years after the divorce, after there has been a long marriage.  None of these factors apply here.  The Russian courts will treat as joint matrimonial property anything that has arisen during the course of the marriage and will state that the parties should divide this equally.  If there is no pre-nup, they will take into account that the majority of the assets were preowned by him before the marriage, and will be ringfenced and disregarded for division. In Russia, any assets inherited during the marriage are also treated as separate property and do not come into divorce calculation.  Accordingly, Dasha will get a lesser settlement in Russia then she would in the United Kingdom as the criteria for deciding a settlement is far higher and wider than in Russia.

Is there a prenup and if so what would have been in it?

It is likely that having been divorced twice before on the first occasion to Olga Lysova for three years and thereafter to his second wife Irina Malandina for sixteen years and having paid out a purported settlement of £150 million to Irina, it is most likely that Roman would have drawn up a pre-nuptial agreement prior to his marriage to Dasha. This pre-nup would most likely confirm that all pre-acquired assets will be ringfenced in whichever jurisdiction the divorce is issued in (although it would be likely to state that any future divorce would be held in Russia).  It would also state that any increase in those assets during the course of the marriage, should also be ringfenced.  It would more likely have a specific sum of money for each year of the marriage for example after one year £5m, after five years these pre-nups tend to dog leg giving a greater sum say for example £5m or £10m for each year of the marriage and after ten-years there would be a far greater jump of say £15m – £20m for each successive year.  This may be the reason why perhaps at this stage where is likely to be a huge jump, the marriage has come to a close.  Of course, one can only speculate.

Grounds for divorce

In the United Kingdom, there is only ground for divorce, namely that the marriage has irretrievably broken down based on certain facts ie adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or two years separation with consent or five years separation. In Russia, divorce is based on one proposition, that the marriage has irretrievably broken.  The Courts under the Russian family code cannot interfere with the divorce or prevent it on that there is insufficient basis to bring the divorce as they can here.

What is the settlement like to be?

The assets in this case consist of £7 billion approximately. Of this the majority was pre-acquired.  The parties jointly appear to own entities known as The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow and the new Holland Social and Cultural Centre in St Petersburg.  Their joint announcement suggests that they will continue to run these entities.    The other assets consist of a home in London worth £125m, a home in Antibes worth £30m and three houses in New York worth £58m, a yacht worth £1 billion etc.  Any agreement between the parties will decide where Dasha wishes to reside together with the children and then consider what property would be best for her to reside in.  Given the level of housing, it is likely that she will have a home worth in the region of £50m and be provided with a settlement of a further £50m given their lifestyle.  Provision could also be made in addition for the benefit of the two children by way of maintenance or a Trust set up for their benefit.  The parties will undoubtedly enter into a confidentiality clause written into the agreement so that part of any settlement that Dasha receives will be effectively to buy her silence over their relationship and his lifestyle.  Roman will keep his interest in his football clubs, his yachts, bikes and cars and no doubt Dasha will be supplied with a relevant car and entitled to keep her own jewellery, art, bikes etc.  As to the art collection that they both own, this will undoubtedly be divided by agreement or they may agree to house much of it in the Garage Museum for a specific period, after which time it will be sold by agreement.

Are they likely to go to war?

It is my view that these parties are unlikely to take this matter before the divorce courts either here or in Russian and will quietly reach agreement. It is said that Roman and Dasha zealously regard their privacy and for the

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