When a couple who are living overseas decide to separate and divorce, the issue of in which country the divorce proceedings should be commenced can become vitally important. In legal terms this is known as jurisdiction.
Every country has its own laws relating to divorce and family matters and it may be that the law in one country is more favourable to your situation. That’s why it’s crucial to seek advice at the earliest stage from a solicitor you can trust to prioritise your best interests. At Crisp & Co, our team of international divorce lawyers are equipped with the expertise necessary to provide strategic advice and assistance throughout your separation. Our vast experience working with clients living abroad allows us to analyse each situation individually to determine the best approach for you. If you are resident or working overseas, we can arrange ‘virtual’ appointments to discuss your situation.
International divorce can occur for several reasons. It could be a simple matter of a couple choosing to live abroad for employment reasons, or that one or both parties were not born in the UK. In other instances, it can involve serious matters such as parent-child abduction and forced marriage. In any case, the country in which you choose to begin your divorce proceedings will affect the outcome and how your finances are divided. For example, if an English couple were living abroad in Dubai and the husband met someone else, it would be beneficial for the wife to move back to the UK and begin divorce proceedings from here. If her husband were to issue a divorce petition from Dubai, the courts in Dubai would have exclusive jurisdiction and therefore, the wife may not receive a fair financial settlement.
In any case, international divorce tends to be complex, so seeking legal advice from a specialist international divorce lawyer in the UK is essential in securing the best possible outcome.
What can an international family lawyer help me with?
When a relationship breaks down, the sudden change to your circumstances can be particularly challenging. The process of divorce is daunting; especially when there are international elements involved. It can be difficult to know how to begin the legal process of international divorce and what your options are, so gaining advice from a family law specialist at an early stage will allow you to determine the best course of action for securing a fair outcome. If you are an ex-pat living abroad or a non-UK national currently living in the UK, our international divorce lawyers will guide you through the divorce process ensuring that costs and time are kept to a minimum. It many cases, using a court in England or Wales will be the best approach financially, as using the courts abroad will generally cost more. However, depending on your circumstances, it may be necessary for your divorce proceedings to begin in another country. As soon as we have had time to understand your individual situation and your desired outcome, we will advise the most appropriate country’s Courts to handle your divorce and your financial arrangements.
What is an international divorce?
An international divorce occurs when a separating couple have connections to another country; for example if a couple have relocated, or a non-UK national has married a UK citizen. The reason why international divorce can be complicated is because each country has it’s own unique laws regarding divorce, such as how financial assets are divided. This even applies within UK countries – for example in Scotland, where only matrimonial property (assets that were acquired during the marriage) are taken into account in the financial settlement. In certain foreign countries, separating couples are not required to declare all of their financial assets during a divorce, which can result in an outcome that does not correlate with your interests and requirements. In order to determine the most tactical approach in protecting your interests, there are certain factors to consider. For example, using a foreign court might benefit you financially, but may cast decisions contrary to your wishes regarding child arrangements. Therefore, seeking advice from an expert international divorce solicitor is essential in understanding your legal position and deciding which country’s laws surrounding divorce will benefit you the most.
How do I get an international divorce?
If you wish to end your marriage, but are uncertain of how to proceed due to the international elements of your relationship, your first move should be to seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible. This is essential, especially if the split was not amicable, as your ex-partner may be able to take advantage of the laws in a foreign country before you are able to issue divorce proceedings from the UK. If this occurs, that country will have exclusive jurisdiction over the divorce from start to finish. However, if both parties are still able to cooperate and there’s a chance of reaching an agreement through mediation, our international divorce lawyers in the UK will be able to advise and assist you through these sessions and ensure the solution meets your needs.
How does international divorce work?
The outcome of an international divorce will depend on which country you issue proceedings in. While most nations in the world allow residents to divorce under some conditions, there will be variations in how financial settlements are agreed and what counts as matrimonial assets. If you wish to use a court in England or Wales for your divorce, you may be able to do so as long as:
- Both you and your partner are habitually resident in England or Wales
- Both you and your partner were habitually resident in England or Wales until one of you relocated abroad leaving the other in the UK
- The person responding to the divorce petition is habitually resident in England or Wales
- The person applying for the divorce has been habitually resident in the UK for at least 6 months
- Both you and your partner are domiciled in England or Wales
- If no EU contracting state has jurisdiction to divorce you
Understanding in which country you can legally start a divorce and which is the most advantageous to your needs can be particularly complicated, and could be influenced by where you were born, where you own property, where your parents were born and which country you registered your marriage or civil partnership. Working out the best option for you, your finances and potentially your children should be your first step, and this is where the specialist advice of a qualified international divorce lawyer will be beneficial.
How much does an international divorce cost?
The costs of international divorce vary, as the fees involved with court will differ greatly between countries. For UK nationals, it’s likely to be cheaper to use a court in the United Kingdom, with current court-filing fees set at £550. This fee is for the courts staff to process your divorce and also covers your decree absolute application. However, it may be advantageous to your financial settlement that you use a court in another country if possible. When you discuss your situation with our international divorce lawyers, we will be able to provide a rough estimate of the costs involved with your case whether you choose to proceed in the UK or abroad. Our costs are competitive, but we will always be upfront surrounding our fees so that you have a clear understanding of the amount required from day one.
Can you help with international child custody cases?
Yes. Our international divorce and family lawyers will always prioritise the needs of your children through your divorce, ensuring that the country you issue proceedings in will do the same. Child residency cases are stressful by nature, so when factors such as parent relocation are involved, matters can become even more complicated. In a straightforward UK-based divorce, it’s common for parents to apply for joint-custody, which enables the child to spend an equal amount of time with each parent and have both parents agreeing on decisions that affect the child’s life e.g. education. However, when international elements are involved, this solution may not be as favourable if it requires the child or parent to travel each time they need to see each other.
If your situation involves parent-child abduction in which your spouse has taken your child abroad, you can rely on our team to take firm legal action in order to protect your child and bring them back to the UK safely. If your child has been abducted and taken to a country which has signed to The Hague convention, you will be entitled to free legal representation within that country.
Will I have to travel to the UK for the divorce?
Though you may have been born in the UK, you will not have to travel to the UK in order to issue a divorce petition. Crisp & Co’s specialist team of international divorce lawyers have wide experience of dealing with international aspects of family breakdown and jurisdiction, and can arrange ‘virtual’ appointments to discuss your needs if you are resident or working overseas.
At Crisp & Co, our duty is to ensure the outcome of your divorce or dissolution is fair and achieved within an acceptable time-frame. Our dedicated team of international divorce lawyers have worked, and continue to work with clients who live or reside in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE). To discuss your specific requirements please do not hesitate to contact us today: we will carefully assess your legal position and unique circumstances before determining the best approach for you.