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Overseas Divorce - some guidelines

07/01/16 - 12:22 pm

People living abroad can find it difficult to access legal advice about divorce and separation and where they should start divorce proceedings.

The laws in each country differ and so it can be more advantageous to divorce in one country than another if there are issues about children and money that need to be resolved.

There are different types of overseas divorce:

Couples who are English, live in England but married abroad.

The marriage laws of each country are different, but if you married abroad and were legally married in that country, it will be accepted by the English Court that you are married. The most difficult issue which couples who married abroad face is often obtaining a duplicate marriage certificate if they have mislaid the one issued to them when they married.

If you live in England, were born in England but married abroad, then generally speaking you will be able to divorce in England.

Couples who are foreign nationals and who married abroad but are living in England.

If you are both “habitually resident” i.e. both living in England for several months with an intention to remain living here and are settled here e.g. one or both of you is working, you own property in England, have bank accounts etc., then you will be able to divorce in England.

You must still check with a lawyer overseas whether or not it is advantageous or indeed possible to divorce overseas and compare the advice given by a lawyer in England with the advice given by your lawyer overseas.

It can be difficult to enforce orders made in relation to property/money held overseas.  Mirror orders may have to be made and/or the wording of orders to include a provision about financial penalty/redress is important.

Couples who are foreign nationals and who married abroad and both of them lived in England, but one of them has returned overseas.

If one of you is still living in England and continues to have a settled intending to remain living in England e.g. has a job here, owns property etc., then you will still be able to divorce in England.

Again, it is important to check the position with a lawyer overseas to compare and contrast advice given by a lawyer in England about entitlement to money/property and children.

One person is English, but the other a foreign national. You married overseas and have been living overseas; the other party remains living overseas.

If the person who is English has returned to live in England permanently then divorce proceedings cannot be issued by that person for 6 months after their return

If you divorce overseas but have assets/property in England which have not been dealt with by the Court overseas, then you may still be able to ask the Court in England to resolve issues relating to division of those assets.  This is a complex area of the law and it is important to obtain legal advice.

To find out more, contact Emsleys’ Family Law team on 0113 201 4900 for a free, no obligation consultation.

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