Once you have decided to divorce your husband or wife the next question you may need to consider is whether to get divorced in the UK or abroad.
If you or your spouse has links to more than one country it may enable you to exercise a choice about the country where divorce proceedings are started. That decision could have a major impact on the amount you either pay or receive as a divorce financial settlement. That’s why it is vital to get specialist help from a divorce law solicitor before your spouse takes the decision away from you and starts their own divorce proceedings in their country of choice.
Divorce proceedings and the choice of country
You may be able to get divorced in England even though you got married overseas or even if neither of you is a British citizen or neither of you has indefinite leave to remain.
The law says that to get divorced in either England or Wales either you or your husband, wife, or civil partner need to meet one of these criteria at the time you start divorce proceedings (or dissolution of civil partnership proceedings):
- You are both last habitually resident in England or Wales and one of you still lives here or
- Your spouse or civil partner is habitually resident in England or Wales or
- You are habitually resident and you have lived in England or Wales for at least one year immediately before applying for the divorce or
- You are habitually resident and have lived in England or Wales for at least six months before starting the divorce proceedings or
- You and your husband, wife, or civil partner are both domiciled in England or Wales
Equally, even though you are a British citizen and you currently live in the UK, you may be able to start divorce proceedings elsewhere if your spouse has international links to another country.
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Changing the country of divorce
In some situations (for example, where the competing jurisdictions are EU countries) if you or your spouse start divorce proceedings in one country and the other spouse contests that court’s jurisdiction then the court may decide that another country has a closer connection to hear the divorce proceedings.
That means that although speed can be important it is equally vital to talk to an international family lawyer before you start divorce proceedings in a country where there is a strong risk that the court will rule that there is a closer connection in another country.
Getting your choice of country right
International divorce solicitors recommend that advice is taken rather than assuming that you do not have a choice of country in which to get divorced, assuming that the choice of the country does not matter, or believing that England will always be the best country in which to get divorced. Sometimes people are surprised by the divorce jurisdiction options available to them and how much difference the country in which you get divorced affects the size of the divorce financial settlement.
Is it worth a divorce race to start divorce proceedings in a divorce country of choice?
The decision to start divorce proceedings shouldn’t be rushed but for some spouses delay in starting divorce proceedings can result in their spouse seizing the financial advantage by starting divorce proceedings in their choice of country. The questions to ask are:
- Am I sure I want to get divorced? If you are not certain then taking the decision to quickly start divorce proceedings in your preferred country may mean it is harder to reconcile
- What are the choice of countries? The choice of countries, such as whether they are all in the EU, may affect the decision on whether the speed is important
- Is it likely that my spouse will be honest about his or her finances and want to reach a fair financial settlement? If your spouse probably wants to reach a reasonable financial agreement then starting early divorce proceedings in your choice of country might alienate them and make it harder to reach a financial agreement. However, if your spouse isn’t likely to be honest about the family finances then issuing speedy divorce proceedings in your choice of divorce court, where the court has strong powers to order financial disclosure and enforce financial orders, maybe in your interests
- Do I know the financial implications to me of my spouse starting the divorce proceedings in the country of their choice? If you don’t know the answer to this question it is really important to get speedy help from a divorce solicitor on the potential choices of country in which the divorce proceedings could be started as well as the types and range of financial orders that could be made in each country where the divorce proceedings could potentially be issued
- Is it financially worth starting divorce proceedings in my choice of country? Sometimes racing to start divorce proceedings in your choice of country isn’t justified in terms of the size of the financial award against any extra legal costs that might arise in arguing over the country where the divorce should be heard. In other situations, it can make a massive difference
International divorce and divorce solicitors
If there is potentially more than one country in which divorce proceedings could be started it is important that you choose your divorce solicitors with care. Why? Not all divorce solicitors have experience with international divorce proceedings and choice of court jurisdictions or always appreciate the need for speed to avoid your husband or wife starting the divorce proceedings in a country that isn’t favourable to you.
Choosing a specialist divorce solicitor for your international divorce
A good starting point is to find a divorce solicitor who is a member of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL), a worldwide association of family and divorce solicitors who are recognised as experts in their field in their countries of practice. At Evolve Family Law, solicitor Robin Charrot is a member of IAFL.
A divorce solicitor won’t be able to tell you the exact divorce laws and the difference in approach to financial claims on divorce in Australia, South Africa, or the Middle East but they will be able to readily obtain expert opinions and advice from fellow members of the International Academy of Family Lawyers because they know the right questions to ask and are used to obtaining speedy expert divorce advice in international divorces.