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In my previous blog on spousal maintenance payments I dealt with maintenance orders that have been made in England, Wales and/or where the debtor lives within the UK, but is unable or refusing to pay. In this blog I deal with enforcement if the order was made outside of England and Wales and/or the debtor lives outside the UK.
There are numerous regulations and statutory instruments which make international enforcement of financial orders a highly complex area. In most cases, enforcement of maintenance orders can be carried out through governmental agencies.
The first step, therefore, is to find out whether there is a reciprocal arrangement between the UK and the country in which the debtor (and their assets) is located. Unfortunately, there are still many important countries with which the UK has no reciprocal arrangement. The Official Solicitor has published a list of countries with reciprocal arrangements in place but this changes regularly. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/countries-where-you-can-enforce-child-maintenance-decisions
Where reciprocal arrangements exist and a maintenance order needs to be enforced abroad, the first port of call is the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders (REMO) Unit.
The REMO unit provides a process where a maintenance order made in a UK court for a UK resident can be registered and enforced by a foreign court or authority against a paying party who lives there.
In order to begin this process, the recipient of the maintenance order should apply to the magistrates’ court to register an already existing order abroad. The order then effectively becomes an order of that foreign country and is, therefore, governed by the law of that country and not UK laws.
The UK has no authority to make foreign courts enforce maintenance orders or to set a timescale for enforcement, as the system is based on mutual agreement.
Some countries, including many Middle Eastern countries, have little or no reciprocal arrangements with the English courts and therefore there can be many difficulties in enforcing English orders in these countries. This highlights the need to give careful consideration as to the jurisdiction of proceedings in the beginning so that safeguards can be put in place at the outset to maximise the enforcement options of any order made within divorce and financial proceedings.
It is vital that you seek legal advice before embarking on a REMO application. Brexit is likely to involve significant changes to some of the reciprocal enforcement arrangements and so we urge our clients and their advisors to bear this in mind.
If you would like to talk to an expert about your spousal maintenance order payments or if you are in the early stages of applying for spousal support, please do get in touch.