Russian beauty queen awarded multi-million pound payout in bitter divorce battle
Russian beauty queen with a taste for luxury handed a £3.3 million divorce payout after judge says case would have been better settled out of court
Published 05/06/2015 | 08:18
A Russian beauty queen with a taste for “eye-watering” luxury has been handed a £3.3 million divorce payout after a judge ruled she could not “reasonably” be expected to live too far from her familiar surroundings of Chelsea and Knightsbridge.
Ekaterina Parfenova - who wanted £60,000 a year for hairdressers and beauty treatments alone and another £75,000 holiday fund – suggested the handout might not be enough as she insisted all she ever wanted was to bring her two young children up “appropriately”.
The 42-year-old former child starlet even suggested that what she called her fight for “justice” had been a struggle on behalf of abandoned mothers and children everywhere.
But in a case described by a judge as “unedifying” and like a “boxing match”, Ms Parfenova and her husband Richard Fields, an American lawyer, blew more than £1 million on legal expenses despite his repeated pleas for them to settle out of court.
Mr Justice Holman warned the pair they would now have to rein in their lavish spending and urged them to “take away the lesson of this bruising experience” and co-operate with each other for the good of their children.
He told them they could have had more if they had not spent so much on legal fees.
Mr Fields is left with £2.6 million out of the couple’s joint £6 million fortune.
Meanwhile Ms Parfenova receives less than half of the initial lump-sum payment she originally sought in a case the judge said was a salutary reminder of the “intense and painful” consequences of warring couples going to court to divide their assets.
She receives a £1.2 million lump-sum and more than £300,000 a year in maintenance, instead of the £2.6 million plus £750,000 a year she wanted. The rest of the settlement is made up from a share of their joint investments.
But, significantly, the judge spared Ms Parfenova the prospect of having to settle for life outside the ultra-rich neighbourhoods of central London she was used to.
During the hearing she proposed an apartment near Kensington Palace as her possible future home, but Mr Fields said she should set her sights somewhere cheaper – suggesting Battersea, south of the river Thames.
The judge said the settlement would allow her to buy an apartment in central London close to favoured schools around Knightsbridge at a cost of around £2.3 million.
“They have lived since 2011 in very central Chelsea or Knightsbridge,” he said.
“There's a limit to how far the wife can reasonably be expected to move from the centre.”
He had earlier cited a flat near Westminster Abbey, in central London, currently on the market for £2.3 million, as an example of a home which would meet Ms Parfenova’s needs.
When asked during the hearing about her plans to support herself in the future, Ms Parfenova said she had no immediate plans to get a job but would try to find a new husband.
Mr Fields is already hoping to marry again – for the sixth time.
Speaking as she left court Ms Parfenova said she hoped she could look forward to a “bright and positive future” but added: “The key aspect of my claim has been to ensure I can raise my two beautiful children appropriately and I need to assess whether the judgement will enable me to do that.
“My case has highlighted the difficulty mothers and their children have securing what they are rightfully entitled to in a divorce settlement.”
During his three-hour judgment, Mr Justice Holman highlighted their previous “luxurious lifestyle” including Maserati, Range Rover and BMW cars, their cook, cleaner and two nannies as well as dining at top restaurants and gifts of expensive jewellery.
He remarked that to most people such figures were "eye-watering" but the amounts had to be seen in the context of the lifestyle they enjoyed when together.
Addressing them directly he said: “I've striven to reach an outcome which is fair to both of you.
“There are no winners and no losers. You've not got as much as you [Ms Parfenova] wanted and he's having to pay more than he wished to pay.
“What I sincerely hope is that each of you take away the lesson of this bruising experience. It was a boxing match. It wasn't edifying.”
Leaning forward as he spoke, he urged them to work together in future over questions such as their children's schooling and avoid again turning to the courts to solve their problems.
“I sincerely hope you will take away the lesson of this,” he said.
“It’s not like commercial litigation – it’s much more intense and painful.”
Mr Justice Holman's ruling means that Ms Parfenova will receive a £3.3 million share.
It includes the £1.2 million lump sum along with the value of shares and fees from two businesses set up by Mr Fields, and a Moscow flat she inherited from her mother.
Mr Fields will keep their New York apartment.
The judge said one of his main priorities was to ensure the couple's children were provided for in the award.
Mr Fields was instructed to contribute £50,000 a year for the upkeep of the children, who continue to live with their mother.
On top of that, their school fees - and a further £80,000 for the children's upkeep - would be paid from a trust fund set up by Mr Fields after the couple met in 2001.
Delivering a three-hour long judgment, the judge said both would have to reduce their spending from the £800,000 a year when they were together. Her husband, admitted he was "generous" and overspent , without saving any of his £1.3m a year salary.
In evidence it emerged his generosity extended to buying a £30,000 antique diamond engagement ring for his current girlfriend he wanted to be his sixth wife.
The judge said he admitted being a "high spender" who "spent to the limits of his means."
James Brown a family lawyer with JMW Solicitors, said: “It’s important to remember that although much has been made of her attitude during the proceedings and her lifestyle during the marriage, if someone can demonstrate that they have needs - measured against the standards of living in the marriage - the court will make an order to meet those needs.
“As the saying goes, ‘Needs conquer all’”.
Alison Fernandes, a partner in family law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, said the case underlined the dangers of allowing legal disputes to drain joint assets.
"We would always urge those going through divorce to carefully consider all options before committing to going to court to ensure their needs are met,” she said.
“A key option could be to consider alternative dispute resolution methods including mediation, collaborative law or arbitration.”