Expatriate Law sets legal precedent

Potential financial restrictions for expats

Expatriate Law’s recently reported case has set a legal precedent in England by clarifying the application of certain European regulations, that have to date restricted many expat’s financial claims through the English courts. The regulations came in to force in 2011, and affect financial claims through the English courts when a divorce petition has been issued in England relying on one party’s ‘sole domicile’ in England. The sole domicile plea is fairly common for  expatriate couples, especially where one spouse is British and one spouse is not. On a sole domicile divorce petition, these regulations would restrict claims for ‘maintenance’ through the English courts. Maintenance is defined widely and can also include capital provision.


Expatriate couple in Dubai

The case involved an expatriate couple residing in Dubai, the husband being British and the wife Ethiopian. Initially the husband attempted to restrict the wife’s claims to maintenance by relying on the EU Council Regulation 4/2009. Our firm acted for the wife in this case. We argued on her behalf that she should be exempt from the restrictions under the regulations, because the husband had agreed to English jurisdiction, he had chosen the English courts, and the wife had no chance of reasonably obtaining maintenance under another legal system. The wife succeeded in relying on all three exceptions to the application of these regulations, thereby ensuring the full range of financial claims were open to her through the English courts. She was awarded maintenance and a capital sum.

The reported case has provided much needed clarity for family lawyers, on the workings of these fairly new regulations.

Click here to read the full judgment.