Synchronise watches: the race to start international divorce proceedings
Most people assume, especially as we are currently part of the European Union, that if a couple decide to separate and get divorced it doesn’t matter which country they petition for divorce in as a ‘’divorce is a divorce’’.
Well that response is both right and wrong. My apologies for giving a stereotypical ‘’on the fence’’ lawyer’s answer but whilst a husband or wife may achieve a divorce as a result of the decision to petition for a divorce in country A it may mean the husband or the wife’s financial settlement is a lot less compared to if they had started the divorce proceedings in country B.
The Court of Appeal has been hearing a case involving a German financier Oliver Thum and his wife, Catja, to decide whether to stop the divorce proceedings issued by Mrs Thum in London and to allow Mr Thum’s German divorce proceedings to go ahead:
This scenario of a family with more than one divorce country to choose from is surprisingly common however when a husband or wife are separating they often don’t realise at that stage the financial significance of their decision to start Court proceedings in a particular country or they don’t have the means to challenge an estranged husband or wife’s decision to commence the divorce in country A rather than B.
In the Thum’s case it is agreed that Catja Thum started her divorce proceedings in London before her husband had issued proceedings in Germany. The question for the Court is whether her delay in sending her divorce petition to her husband should mean that her divorce petition is dismissed? That is an issue that the Court of Appeal judges are considering.
It certainly won’t be the last time this scenario comes before the Court for adjudication for whilst London is perceived to be ‘’the divorce capital’’ for large financial awards there will be always be a natural attraction for the economically weaker spouse to start Court proceedings in England. I am often asked to give preliminary advice where there is potentially more than one divorce Court jurisdiction and if advice is needed from an overseas lawyer as to whether it would be preferable to start divorce proceedings overseas then I can easily arrange this as I am a fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, the world’s leading organisation of expert international family lawyers.
Always seek expert advice
If there is the potential to start divorce proceedings in more than one jurisdiction it is vital to get expert legal advice as quickly as possible on your options so that you preserve the ability to start divorce proceedings in the country of your choice. Sometimes people are reluctant to take the step of seeing a lawyer but an initial consultation doesn’t commit you to anything but gives you information to help you chose the right option for you. If that option is a divorce then early advice gives you the opportunity to choose the ‘‘right’’ country to initiate the Court proceedings in.
For advice on any aspect of divorce proceedings or financial settlements please call me on +44 (0) 1477 464020 or contact me by email at [email protected]