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Russian ex-wife fails in England and Wales ‘divorce tourism’ application  

27 November 2019

An application for financial relief made by Natalia Potanina against her Russian husband has been rejected by the England and Wales High Court (Family Division).

Both former spouses are Russian nationals and neither has any other other nationality. They married in Russia in 1983 and only lived in Russia throughout the marriage and were divorced under Russian law in 2014.

Divorce Settlement

It appeared to be agreed by both Natalia and Mr Potanin that he transfer balances worth around 71 million Us Dollars to his ex-wife under their divorce settlement. However, there have been disagreements about this due to exchange rate variations. Also it is apparent that this is only a true fraction of his wealth because he deliberately structured nearly all his assets to be shares in companies or other businesses held by nominees in trust or corporate vehicles.

Natalia claims that her ex-husband is really worth about 20 billion US Dollars. She claims the Russian award 'does not even begin to meet my reasonable needs' and suggests the Russian judiciary has been influenced by her former husband, in order to defeat her claim.


Natalia issued proceedings in Russia, Cyprus, and several US states to pursue her claim, so England is the fourth jurisdiction she has tried, having taken up residence in London under an investor visa in June 2014.

However, Cohen J in the EWHC also rejected her application for leave to bring a claim under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984. 'It seems clear to me that in every instance the Russian courts have consistently and properly applied Russian law', he said, noting that Russian law does not recognise the common-law concept of property owned beneficially but not legally.


If you would like more information about divorce or need any other family advice please contact Emma Hoole, Family Lawyer on 01142138137 or email