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How to Divorce From Abroad

The idea of divorcing whilst overseas can be a daunting prospect. Researching how to divorce from abroad can be confusing. Many British expatriates don’t realise their options until it is too late. This article aims to act as a guide for British expatriates on how to divorce whilst overseas. It is important to first note that you do not need to divorce in the country in which you were married. 

Am I eligible to divorce in the UK, whilst living abroad?

There are a number of circumstances in which you can divorce in England whilst living abroad as a British expatriate:
– You or your spouse is domiciled in England and Wales.
– The Respondent is habitually resident in England or Wales.
– The Petitioner is habitually resident in England or Wales and has been residing there for at least a year before the application has been made.
– You or your spouse were habitually resident in England or Wales last, and one of you still lives there.

We have prepared a detailed explanation of the meaning of the terms ‘domicile’ and ‘habitual residence’.

Mechanics of divorcing abroad

Expatriate Law’s expertise and ways of working make it easy to divorce and conduct legal proceedings whilst abroad.

We are an entirely paper-less firm, meaning that we will correspond with you mainly via email, telephone call and video conferencing. Most of our current clients go through the divorce process whilst living overseas, and therefore we are well equipped to deal with all aspects of your case whilst you are living abroad. A number of our international divorce solicitors are either expats themselves, or have been expats. This means that they are able to advise on related issues affecting British expatriates, such as residency visas and higher costs of living.

In terms of the applications for divorce, these can now be conducted online through the HMCTS Courts website. This makes the process even easier to conduct whilst you are abroad.

Dealing with financial and children matters whilst abroad

If a divorce is being conducted through the English courts, then the English courts usually have jurisdiction to deal with the division of assets following this divorce. If a divorce has been completed abroad, it may also be possible for the English courts to deal with the financial matters. This is a very specialist area and if you think this may apply to you, then contact one of our specialists for more tailored advice.

Dealing with matters concerning children who are living overseas is slightly more complicated, but more information can be found here. There are certain circumstances in which the English courts can make decisions about children living abroad. Again, this is a very specialist area, but please contact one of our expert international family lawyers for help and advice.

In terms of court proceedings for financial and children matters, we have seen an increased number of remote online hearings in the last few months. This poses a clear benefit to those divorcing whilst overseas, as this eliminates the need to travel to the UK for court hearings.

What happens if my spouse files for divorce outside of England and Wales?

The impact of this depends on whether your spouse has applied for a divorce within the EU, or outside of the EU.

If the divorce has been commenced in a country in the EU, then the case is subject to the first in time rule. This means that the person who has filed their application first has won the ‘jurisdiction race’ and the divorce proceedings will take place in that EU country. In this case, you will not be able to apply for divorce in England and Wales.

However, if they have not applied in an EU country, then you can contest this jurisdiction. The court will then need to decide which country is the most appropriate for the divorce proceedings. To make this decision, they will consider a number of factors to determine which country has the strongest connection to you and your spouse.

The question of jurisdiction and where to file for divorce is a complex one, and if you find that you have questions about where to apply, please contact one of our specialist solicitors who will be able to give you initial advice, free of charge. It is important to seek advice at an early stage to ensure a divorce is commenced in the country most favourable to you.

Where can I go for more information?

Our advice for expats section is a good place to start for advice on different elements of divorcing whilst abroad. For tailored, specialist advice for your situation, you can contact one of our lawyers for free and immediate initial telephone advice.

This article was written by Catrin Howells, paralegal at Expatriate Law.

Question, comment or concern? Our contact form is the best way to get in touch with a member of our team.

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