Prest v Petrodel Resources Limited and others [2013] UKSC 34

In proceedings for financial remedies following divorce, Mrs Prest sought to enforce a lump sum order in her favour, which Mr Prest had not satisfied, by obtaining an order for the transfer of UK properties to her held by companies which were wholly owned and controlled by him. This required the court to consider whether there was any basis on which it could regard the assets of the companies as available to satisfy the lump sum order. On the facts of this case, the Supreme Court held that the properties were in fact held by the companies on trust for the husband and thus fell within the definition of property to which he was entitled under section 24 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
If this had not been so, the court would not have made the order. The concept of ‘property’ in financial remedies proceedings was the same as in the general law of property and the statutory scheme for protecting those dealing with companies was applicable. Furthermore, although there was a small category of cases where the abuse of the corporate veil to evade or frustrate the law could be addressed by disregarding the legal personality of the company, this was not such a case.