Wife to fight US tycoon's London divorce

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The wife of one of America's richest businessmen, burger box billionaire Robert Dart, reluctantly allowed herself to be divorced under English law in London yesterday at a court hearing which she refuses to recognise as valid.

Katina Dart, whose husband makes his money from manufacturing polystyrene containers for fast food restaurants, made it clear that whatever the English High Court awards her as a financial settlement, she will go to her local court in Michigan and lay claim to half his fortune.

Outside court, she denied his allegations of unreasonable behaviour and said: "I do not regard myself as being properly divorced." Mrs Dart, 37, had fought through the courts in vain to stop her husband ending their 15-year marriage in London.

Last week, the Court of Appeal was told that Mr Dart was alleging adultery and accusing his wife of refusing to have sex with him. The adultery claim was dropped yesterday.

Mrs Dart's QC, James Munby, told Mr Justice Johnson she opposed the granting of a divorce decree by "this court". He added: "My client says the court in Ingham county, Michigan, is the only court that has any jurisdiction in this matter." She would not seek to have her husband cross-examined on his written evidence, and would not give evidence herself.

Mr Dart, also 37, was granted a decree nisi because of his wife's alleged unreasonable behaviour. The judge said he was satisfied the marriage had irretrievably broken down. He certified that arrangements for the welfare of the couple's children, William, 12, and Ariana, nine, who live with their mother in Michigan, were "excellent". The question of how much money Mr Dart should pay his wife and children - he is already providing for them voluntarily - was adjourned to be heard in private.

Mr Dart married Katina Scofess in Lansing, Ingham Co, in October 1980. The family moved to England in 1993. The Court of Appeal's ruling last week that the English court was the appropriate forum for the divorce was based on Mr Dart's "habitual residence" here for more than 12 months. After yesterday's 10-minute hearing, Mr Dart refused to comment.

Mrs Dart said: "I was born in America, married in America, live in America and came to England in 1993 on a temporary basis. I am still an American citizen. I think it is so unfair he gets a divorce here. He is not a British citizen. He does not pay taxes here. This case would be better heard in the United States."

Her solicitor, Margaret Bennett, said there was still a contest over where the financial settlement should take place. "Divorce settlements in England have been based on a wife's needs, not on a fair division of property as in the United States.

"This has led to the 'millionaire's defence' where there is one law for mega-rich men and another for their wives and everyone else. This case could be the watershed we have been waiting for to give a fair share of the family assets to the wife and not just provide for her needs."