Divorce Law 101: Which Former Spouse Gets the Half-Billion Dollar Yacht?
Upon deciding to split up, many couples have to squabble over things like who gets to keep the high-end coffee maker or toaster they received as a wedding gift. But as divorcing spouses go, it is rare to have to argue over which of them gets the family’s CDN$584 million mega-yacht.
This was the plight of Russian billionaire Farkad Akhmedov and his former wife Tatiana. As part of their 2016 divorce settlement – which is one of the costliest in the world – Farkad had been ordered by a U.K. court to pay over about 40 percent of his vast fortune to his ex-wife. But the ownership of the 115-metre mega-yacht called “Luna” was still under contention; when Farkad failed to pay Tatiana the CDN$795 million as ordered, she obtained a freezing order from a U.K. court in 2018 that purported to apply to Dubai, where the yacht was docked. A Dubai court affirmed that the U.K. judgment declaring Tatiana the owner could be enforced. Local Dubai authorities went ahead and impounded the vessel.
But recently, a Dubai Court of Appeal ruled in Farkad’s favour; it agreed with his position that the yacht was part of a matrimonial dispute, not a maritime dispute and that Shariah law should govern the ownership issue. Since the 2016 U.K. order relating to the yacht was ill-founded, the Dubai seizure was also improper. The Appeal Court added that the Dubai ruling, purporting to find that the U.K. judgment was enforceable in that jurisdiction, was also in error.
It is unlikely that this will be the end of the matter: It is reported that Tatiana intends to resume pursuing her various marriage- and property-related claims in the U.K. courts. It is also expected that the case will also be forwarded to another Dubai court for a further hearing.
Meanwhile, the mega-yacht is currently still docked in Dubai pending resolution of which of these former spouses is the owner, and under which jurisdiction’s laws. The yacht is described as having nine decks, two helicopter landing pads, an on-board swimming pool, a mini-submarine, and space for 50 crew.