Is my Divorce recognised in England?

How do I know if my divorce is legal?

 

When considering divorce as an expat, most people’s first thought isn’t “will my divorce be recognised in England?”. Surely being divorced in one country means that you would be divorced in any country? This is not actually the case, and it is something that is very important to bear in mind when considering where to proceed with your divorce.

The starting point in considering the question of “is my divorce legal”, is to look at where the divorce took place.

 

If the divorce took place in the United Kingdom

A divorce or annulment that took place in any part of the British Isles, will be recognised in England if it was conducted through formal proceedings by a court. The Decree Absolute is sent out to all parties in the divorce, and is the required evidence of the divorce.

A religious divorce that took place in the United Kingdom (such as a Muslim Talaq, or Jewish Get) will not be recognised in England. However, in certain circumstances, a religious divorce that took place abroad will be recognised (see below).

 

If the divorce took place within Europe

Where a foreign divorce is conducted in any European country (apart from Denmark), it will automatically be recognised in other European countries. Therefore, a divorce conducted within Europe will be recognised in England, and vice versa, an English divorce will be recognised in a European country (except Denmark).

 

If the divorce took place outside Europe

Divorces that take place outside Europe are not always recognised, and this is an important consideration before beginning the divorce process as an expatriate. The English court distinguishes between divorces conducted through ‘proceedings’ and divorces conducted ‘other than through proceedings’. So, what does this mean? Putting it simply, a ‘proceedings’ divorce requires the involvement of the court in that country, it has to be a formalised process involving the court. A divorce that is ‘other than through proceedings’ generally refers to a more relaxed approach, that is usually done through administrative avenues only, and is conducted by a body other than the court, such as a foreign embassy.

Religious divorces, such a divorce by the pronouncement of the Talaq, may or may not involve proceedings depending on the process chosen and the country involved.

An overseas divorce that is obtained through ‘proceedings’ is recognised if:

  1. It is valid under the law of the country in which it was obtained; and
  2. At the time of the divorce, either party to the marriage was
    1. resident in the country in which the divorce took place;
    2. domiciled in the country in which the divorce took place; or a national of the country in which the divorce took place.

By comparison, an overseas divorce that is obtained ‘other than through proceedings’, is only recognised if:

  1. It is valid under the law of the country in which it was obtained; and
  2. at the time of the divorce
    1. Both parties were domiciled in the country in which the divorce took place; or
    2. either party to the marriage was domiciled in the country in which the divorce took place and the other party was domiciled in a country that would recognise the divorce; and
  3. neither party to the divorce was habitually resident in the United Kingdom for a year prior to the divorce.

 

If you are considering getting divorced overseas and want to find out whether it will be recognised in England, please do get in touch with one of our experienced lawyers. You can find our contact details on our website: https://expatriatelaw.com/our-lawyers/

Written by: Hannah McCrindle, Trainee Solicitor at Expatriate Law

 

You may also wish to read:

Is my Marriage Recognised in England?

Divorce Dictionary: Legal Terms explained

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