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Sonny’s Introduction

Expatriate Law is a specialist law firm with offices in London, Abu Dhabi, and Singapore.

We specialise in English family law for British families living overseas, and international families who live in or have links to England.

It is estimated that there are over 5 million Brits living abroad around the world. There are 45,000 in Singapore alone.

We choose to live and work overseas for a variety of reasons: career development, a change of scenery, a fresh start, an opportunity to immerse ourselves in a new culture and make new friends, and easy access to exotic travel on our doorstep.

For the vast majority of families, the expat experience is an enjoyable and valuable chapter in their lives. Some of us return home after a few years, and some of us never look back.

However, there are multiple challenges and potential pitfalls to living overseas – one of which is the possibility of marriage breakdown and divorce.

It is an unavoidable statistical inevitability that a certain percentage of couples will, for a very wide range of reasons, decide to go their separate ways while they happen to be living abroad.

A divorce can be challenging at the best of times, but there are additional layers of complexity that arise when the family is based overseas. For example:

  • British expats can usually choose to divorce in the courts of the country where they are living or via the English court (even while they are living abroad). The choice of jurisdiction for a divorce can lead to very different financial outcomes, depending on the specific facts of the case
  • What happens if the parties simultaneously initiate proceedings in both jurisdictions?
  • What happens to the family’s collective and individual immigration statuses when the couple are no longer legally husband and wife? What can be done to mitigate the difficulties that arise?
  • How to deal with assets in multiple jurisdictions and the tax implications that can arise on disposal or transfer;
  • Valuation of an overseas business and how to assess liquidity and maintainable earnings;
  • What is the relevance of the ability to apply for financial relief in England following an overseas divorce?
  • What if one party wants to return to their home country with the children?
  • What if that parent takes the children back home without the other parent’s permission?
  • The practical challenges that arise on forced repatriation.
  • Cross-border estate and wealth planning post-divorce.

This collection of articles is an attempt to collate and distil in one place essential guidance and wisdom from a wide variety of credible professionals who are (or have been) expats themselves and who advise British expats in Singapore on a regular basis.

Chapter 1:

Patricia Evans (Counsellor and Couples Therapist) discusses the ebb and flow of emotions that arise on separation and divorce, re-framing divorce as a family re-organisation, self-care, honouring the relationship that you once had, and handling the process with grace and mutual respect.

Chapter 2:

Dr Ronina Stevens (Clinical Psychologist) and Priyanka Utama (Assistant Psychologist) share their insights into how a separating couple can fortify and prepare children for the imminent changes in their family, how to communicate the decision to children of different ages and the best approach to protecting children before, during and after the process.

Chapter 3:

I cover in broad strokes:

  • When British expats living abroad can initiate divorce proceedings in England
  • How Brexit combined with the mainstream shift to digital working has given expats easier access to the English courts
  • How English family law differs from Singapore family law
  • Defended divorce petitions
  • Dealing with financial matters if the divorce proceeds in England
  • The power to use English law to improve upon outcomes made in an overseas divorce and how that influences the negotiation between the parties
  • The headline issues that arise in relation to the movement of children across international borders.
  • Visa considerations: separation agreements and post-nuptial agreements

Chapter 4:

Linda Ong (Singapore family lawyer) details when expats are able to divorce in Singapore, how forum disputes are resolved, division of assets and maintenance awards in Singapore law, and a broad account of how children matters are dealt with in Singapore law.

Chapter 5:

Hilary Rupawalla (Singapore qualified family lawyer) discusses the implications of divorce on the visa and immigration status of British expats in Singapore.

Chapter 6:

Nigel Shepherd (English family lawyer) discusses litigation funding for parties who do not have direct access to funds to pay for legal advice.

Chapter 7:

Hero Lomas (English mediator and solicitor) discusses when and how mediation can be used to resolve all matters that arise on divorce efficiently, cost effectively and constructively.

Chapter 8:

Alexander Knight (English barrister) summarises how to resolve financial matters by way of FDR, PFDR, and Arbitration.

Chapter 9:

Martin Rimmer and Christine Teo (Tax specialist) provide a broad overview of the UK/Singapore tax issues that must be considered by a separating couple who are considering transfer or sale of global assets.

Chapter 10:

Jerome McDonagh and Eddy Lee (Forensic Accountants) discuss the role that a Forensic Accountant can play in a divorce to assist spouses in understanding complex financial disclosure documents, investigating undisclosed assets and income sources as well as valuing global business holdings to ascertain their value and future earnings and potential contribution to maintenance and settlement requirements.

Chapter 11:

Max Keeling (Expat financial advisor) turns his attention to financial considerations post-divorce after the parties’ finances have been disrupted and re-shaped by the division of assets and income.

Chapter 12:

Carole Hallett Mobbs (Expat mentor and consultant) shares her insights and advice in respect of the difficult challenges that can arise on a forced repatriation back home as a result of a divorce.

Chapter 13:

Alfred Liu (Private Client lawyer) discusses cross-border intergenerational estate and wealth planning in the context of the changed circumstances of a divorce.

This collection of articles is designed to be a starting point for British expats considering (or unexpectedly facing) a divorce while living in Singapore. To achieve an optimal outcome, it is essential that credible bespoke advice is sought from trustworthy sources at the appropriate time as the process evolves.

Sonny Patel
Partner
Expatriate Law (Asia) Pte Ltd
sonny@expatriatelaw.com

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