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28 MAY 2009

London's reputation as divorce capital of the world" to be tested in the Lords"

A Nigerian woman living in London has been given permission to appeal to the House of Lords after the Court of Appeal upheld a Nigerian court order granting her a fraction of the amount of money she would have received had her divorce been granted in England.

Sikirat Agbaje, 68, is repoted to be suffering from severe financial hardship and is homeless.

The Nigerian couple had spent most of their married life in Nigeria, although during the 33-year marriage they had acquired British citizenship and had spent some time living in England.

After the separation Mrs Agbaje set up home in England, but her attempt to obtain an English divorce was unsuccessful after a Family Division judge held that 'there was no evidence that substantial justice could not be obtained by the wife in the courts of Nigeria'.

Ultimately the Nigerian court granted her husband, Olusola Agbaje, 71, a divorce, going on to award the wife a life interest in the matrimonial home in Nigeria, worth about £83,000, plus a lump sum payment of £21,000 as 'maintenance for life'. Mr Agbaje retained assets of about £616,000, including two properties in London.

Mrs Agbaje sought leave to issue her application for financial relief in England following an overseas divorce. Her case was heard by Mr Justice Coleridge who awarded her £275,000 from the sale of the English property on condition that she transferred her life interest in the Nigerian property to the husband.

Mr Agbaje then went to the Court of Appeal where Lord Justices Ward, Longmore and Jackson ruled that the original Nigerian court order should stand on the grounds that the couple had more significant connection with Nigeria than with England, and Nigeria was the natural and appropriate forum for resolution of the wife's claims.

The case will test London's reputation as "divorce capital of the world" and is being eagerly watched by matrimonial lawyers.

To read the full Newswatch summary of the Court of Appeal decision, click here.

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