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Barristers representing aristocrat in divorce battle working for free

Appeal judges have finished analysing dispute and are expected to rule later in the year.

An aristocrat embroiled in a legal battle with his estranged wife is being represented by barristers who have agreed to work for nothing.

Charles Villiers and Emma Villiers, who are both in their 50s and lived together in Dumbarton before separating, are embroiled in a dispute about whether their arguments over money should be held in an English or Scottish divorce court.

Three Court of Appeal judges finished analysing evidence on Wednesday, after a two-day hearing in London, and are expected to deliver a ruling later in the year.

Barristers Michael Horton and Alexander Laing agreed to represent Mr Villiers for nothing at the appeal court hearing.

Mr Horton told appeal judges Lady Justice King, Lord Justice David Richards and Lord Justice Moylan that Mr Villiers had “received assistance” from an “advocacy scheme” set up by a judge.

He said Mr Villiers had represented himself at an earlier hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London, overseen by Mrs Justice Parker.

Mr Horton told appeal judges about financial difficulties after Mr and Mrs Villiers separated four years ago.

He said Barclays had begun possession proceedings and the home they had shared in Dumbarton, Milton House, had been repossessed in early 2015.

Mr Villiers had been made bankrupt in November 2013, then discharged from bankruptcy in November 2014, he added.

Mrs Justice Parker had ordered Mr Villiers to pay Mrs Villiers £2,500 a month maintenance, pending a resolution of their money fight.

She had rejected Mr Villiers’ “jurisdictional challenges”.

Mr Villiers had mounted a challenge in the appeal court, which Mrs Villiers is contesting.

Mr Horton said the  couple had spent almost all their married life in Scotland after getting married in 1994.

He said Mr Villiers stayed in Dumbarton after the couple separated.

Mrs Villiers “came south to England”, first living near Oxford then in London, and made a cash claim in the High Court in London.

Mr Horton said Mr Villiers wanted answers to a number of questions, including:

– Could a spouse whose marriage was being dissolved in Scotland “move south” and apply for a maintenance order which would “have effect” pending divorce?

– Could such a maintenance order continue to have effect after divorce?

– Why should a spouse who moved south get better alimony payments than a spouse who stayed in Scotland and asked a judge in Scotland to make decisions?

Mr Horton said if Mrs Justice Parker’s decision was allowed to stand, London could become the “maintenance capital” of the UK.

Timothy Scott QC, who represented Mrs Villiers, says the appeal should be dismissed.

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