International divorce is a complex area as different jurisdictions have different laws. In addition, it isn’t even always straightforward to establish which legal system has jurisdiction in an international divorce, especially if either party is domiciled (predominantly lives) in England and Wales but lives abroad. If this is the case, then it may be possible for one person to issue divorce proceedings in the country where they live.
Pre-Brexit, in European divorce cases, the country where the first divorce petition was issued tended to be where the following divorce proceedings would be dealt with. However, this is not true in every International case – particularly following Brexit in cases involving European countries – and it may be possible for an individual to issue divorce proceedings in England and Wales even if proceedings have been issued abroad.
Our team of international divorce lawyers advise clients worldwide and have an extensive network of oversees experts and fellow professionals who can assist in the smooth running and successful outcome of a case.
What is an international divorce?
Put simply, international divorce is where the parties involved have connections with more than one country. This might be because the couple, or one party, resides in a different country.
We can also advise when it comes to civil partnership dissolution if you are living overseas. If you are living in a country that does not recognise civil partnerships, you can have your civil partnership dissolved in England and Wales if either you or your partner is domiciled here or if you have registered as civil partners in England and Wales.
How does international divorce work?
Outcomes on divorce, particularly financial ones, can vary significantly from one country to another. The first step is to establish those countries with which you have a connection. A connection may be established by virtue of one or more of the following:
- where you or your spouse were born,
- Where you or your spouse live,
- Where you or your spouse are domiciled.
It is also important to consider the location of your assets.
As a second step, if you have a connection with multiple countries, you should take advice in each of those jurisdictions to establish (a) whether that country can recognise the marriage and deal with the divorce and all ancillary issues arising from it (i.e. financial and children), and (b) what the likely outcome will be in each of those countries.
In circumstances where multiples jurisdictions are available, it is important to consider the pros and cons of initiating divorce proceedings in each of those jurisdictions. Some areas to consider are as follows:
- Did you enter into any pre/post marital agreements and if so how will each relevant jurisdiction deal with that?
- If one party is unwilling to share information relating to their assets, the extent to which each court can obtain disclosure,
- The nature and location of the assets and whether each court can make orders in respect of those assets
- Enforceability – whether the order of that court can be enforced, if necessary, in the other jurisdiction / where the assets are located,
- The difference in costs in each jurisdiction, as well as the convenience – issuing proceedings in one country when you live in the other could bump up those costs
- Duration of the process in both countries
- The approach each country takes to resolving such matters through alternate dispute resolution methods
How do I get an international divorce?
The process and steps will very much depend on where you are getting divorced.
If you divorce under the English jurisdiction because you live here but have assets abroad, then you will have an “English divorce” but, depending on the facts of your case, you may need to take certain steps in the foreign jurisdiction to resolve financial matters, for example, ensuring that the financial order is recognised in the foreign country. For this, it would be necessary to work closely with foreign international divorce lawyers from the outset of your case to ensure your best interests are protected.
How much does international divorce cost?
As with any family law case, the cost of international divorce can vary enormously. Factors like conflict, communication, what assets there are – as well as if there are children involved – can all increase (or limit!) the cost of legal advice.
As explained above, different legal jurisdictions have different laws when it comes to divorce and separation. This can lead to a desire to issue divorce proceedings in the country that is likely to offer more favourable outcomes. For example, many people believe that England and Wales has a more generous court system when it comes to financial settlements. However, there are no guarantees and obtaining legal advice from international divorce solicitors at the earliest stage is essential.
How long does international divorce take?
Like all divorce cases, much depends on the complexity and degree to which the parties are able to agree and work effectively to end the marriage as smoothly as possible. As outlined above, international divorce cases can be highly complex due to issues like domicile and residence. If there are additional complexities, such as foreign assets (for example, property) or high net worth considerations such as tax, or even a dispute on the appropriate jurisdiction to deal with the divorce, then this can result in a much longer process.
How our international divorce solicitors can help
Regardless of the detail surrounding each case, international divorce is a highly specialist area and taking international divorce advice at the earliest possible stage is an effective way to ensure the best possible outcome. In some cases, speed can be of the essence as EU countries still apply the ‘first to issue’ rule – which, crucially, is now not the case in England following Brexit.
As well as finance, our international divorce work includes international child custody arrangements, which is especially complex when there is an international aspect.
As with all our advice relating to divorce and separation, we encourage clients to consider dispute resolution methods (for example, mediation, collaborative law and arbitration) as a means of limiting the financial and emotional impact on both parties when it comes to navigating their international divorce.