Divorce Through the English Courts

Divorce Through the English Courts

Many British expats that we advise do not realise that they are able to divorce in the UK using the English courts, even whilst residing abroad. In the majority of cases, a British expat divorce through the English courts would not require either spouse to travel back to England. Our experienced lawyers will carry out the divorce in the UK on your behalf, advising you at each step. We ensure that you and your spouse can move with your lives in a dignified way, as soon as possible.

An uncontested expat divorce in the UK can be undertaken within 5 months (the same as if you were living in England). We offer a range of divorce services, from a DIY divorce package (from £300), fixed fee full service divorce (from £2000), jurisdiction strategy consultation to representation within defended proceedings or a forum dispute. Our initial consultations (charged between £180 and £400 depending on seniority of lawyer) are a good starting point. During the consultation (via Zoom or in person) you will receive full and clear advise about the law that applies to you, your rights, the legal outcome and the practical steps we recommend you take at this early stage.

Divorce in the UK

It is important to remember that the UK is made up of several different legal systems, which are:

  1. England and Wales (same legal system)
  2. Northern Ireland
  3. Scotland

The jurisdiction for divorce and divorce laws are not the same within these three UK legal systems, so no lawyer will be a specialist in ‘UK law’.

Expat Divorce in England and Wales:

You may divorce in England if:

  1. You and your spouse are habitually resident in England or Wales
  2. You or your spouse last lived in England or Wales and one of you still live there
  3. You wish to commence the divorce and your spouse lives in England or Wales
  4. You wish to commence the divorce and you have lived in England or Wales for 1 year
  5. You wish to commence the divorce and you have lived in England or Wales for 6 months, and you are domiciled in England or Wales
  6. You and your spouse are both domiciled in England or Wales
  7. Either you OR your spouse are domiciled in England or Wales.
Divorce after Brexit

For divorces being commenced on or after 1st January 2021 (post Brexit), the above rules now apply. It is important to note that if you rely on ‘sole domicile’ (number 7 above), you will need advice on the recognition of your divorce in other parts of Europe.

You may also wish to read about the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill which came in to effect in August 2020. This will make it easier for some parties to divorce, as they will not need to attribute blame for the breakdown of the marriage. You can read more about how this change in the law will affect you in our article ‘The End of Fault Based Divorce‘.

The following discussion about domicile describes the English family law definition required for the consideration of jurisdiction. The word ‘domicile’ has different meanings in other contexts. Domicile of origin is the domicile that everyone acquires at birth. At birth you acquire the domicile of your father, or mother if your parents were separated at the time of your birth. A person must always have a domicile, and can only have their domicile in one country. After the age of 16, a person can acquire a new domicile by moving to another country and intending to remain there permanently. Due to the transient nature of expat life, it is usual for expats to retain their domicile in their home country (therefore generally speaking, British expats often retain the right to divorce through the English courts).

Habitual residence is the place where you establish on a fixed basis, your permanent ‘centre of interests’. No time period is required to obtain habitual residence in a county. It is determined largely by your personal intention to make that place your home. Generally speaking, you are habitually resident in the country in which you live and work.

Jurisdiction is complex, and the wrong advice can lead to costly disputes and unnecessary litigation. Getting jurisdiction right ensures the best possible financial outcome. Our firm offers British expats a free initial overview of their jurisdiction options.

Please note that this article relates to jurisdiction for divorce and financial claims. Jurisdiction for children disputes is different. Contact us for advice in this respect.

Divorce in the UK

Our experienced lawyers will carry out the divorce process on your behalf, advising you at each step, to ensure that you and your spouse can move on as soon as possible.

Contact us today

Internatonal Divorce and Family Law

See the links below for information on British expat divorce law in the following countries:

Ready to seek legal advice? Speak to a member of Expatriate Law today and receive clear and confidential advice.