Airline pilot wins ‘race to divorce’

Posted: 15th November 2012

Jumbo JetAn airline pilot whose wife refused to return home with him after a family holiday has broken the tape first in their ‘race to divorce’. The Court of Appeal ruled that a family judge had been right to grant him a decree absolute despite his ex-wife’s plea that Brazil should have been treated as the appropriate forum in which to hear the case.

Following a row during what had been intended to be a short holiday in Brazil, Silvana Cattin declined to return to England with her husband, Jean Cattin, who flew home alone and soon afterwards issued divorce proceedings. Mrs Cattin, who is of Brazilian origin, launched her own proceedings in Brazil and the case descended into what was described as a ‘race to divorce’.

An English family judge refused Mrs Cattin’s application to stay her husband’s divorce petition after ruling that, as the marriage had largely subsisted in this country, England and Wales was the appropriate jurisdiction in which financial and other aspects of the divorce should be resolved. Mr Cattin was subsequently granted a decree absolute, ending the marriage.

Mrs Cattin challenged that decision at the Court of Appeal, arguing that she would be disadvantaged in participating in on-going disputes with her ex-husband in England by the effect of the divorce on her immigration status. However, Lord Justice McFarlane said that it was likely that Mrs Cattin would be permitted to enter England for the purpose of participating in the proceedings. Refusing her application for permission to appeal, he said: ‘This couple are now, in the eyes of the English courts, divorced. The ability of the Court of Appeal to interfere is severely limited. The divorce has happened - she is no longer married to him.’