International divorce issues

Divorces with an international element can get more complicated, but we've answered some common questions below.

Can I get divorced in England even though I got married abroad?

Yes. In order to divorce in either England or Wales at the time of your divorce either you or your spouse need to meet one of the following criteria:

  • You are both last habitually resident* here and one of you still resides here or;
  • Your spouse is habitually resident here or;
  • You are habitually resident here and you have lived here for at least one year immediately before the petition or;
  • You are habitually resident here and you have lived here for at least six months before the petition or;
  • You are both domiciled* here.

*Domicile and habitual residences are legal concepts so specialist legal advice should be taken when considering whether you are able to divorce or dissolve your civil partnership in England and Wales.

My husband and I are both French but have lived in England for two years. Can we get divorced here in England?

If you have lived in this country for the last two years then either you or your husband may be habitually resident and/or domiciled in England and Wales. If that is the case then you could start divorce proceedings here. However, because you are both French, there is the possibility that you could also divorce in France.

You should take immediate legal advice both in this country and in France to ascertain which country would be best for you to divorce in as different countries have different laws in relation to the split of finances.

If I file for divorce here before my husband files for divorce in the USA will my petition take precendence?

Just because you are first in time with your divorce petition does not necessarily mean that the proceedings will take place in this country. What will happen is that the court will look at which country has the closest connection to the two of you. As disputes between countries are both time consuming and costly it is always advisable to seek legal advice before petitions are issued to ensure that the country most suited to you is chosen.

I was divorced in Saudi Arabia. Can my wife apply to the court in England for financial orders against me?

Even if there is a divorce in Saudi Arabia it may be possible for your wife to apply to the English court for financial orders. However, there are limitations to the orders that the English court can make and therefore you should seek advice as to whether it would be better for you to start financial proceedings in Saudi Arabia instead.

My partner and I have been living abroad but I want to come back to England and divorce here. Can I do this?

If you have been living abroad for any length of time then it is possible that the English court will no longer be able to deal with your divorce. You may need to return to this country for a minimum period of six months before the English court could deal with your divorce. You should take specialist legal advice from a family solicitor to ascertain whether or not the English court has lost its power or not and what steps you need to do to ensure that you could start divorce proceedings here.

My husband’s wealth is all held abroad. Can I apply to the court to get a portion of it?

You should take advice from a specialist family solicitor with regard to what assets are held abroad, where and the range of powers that the court here could make and the difficulties, if any, that you could face around enforcing this in the foreign country.

If I have a residence order for our child do I need the father’s permission to take our daughter for a two week holiday abroad?

Yes. If you have a residence order in your favour in relation to your child, then you can take your child out of the country for a two week holiday.

Where there is a residence order in effect, the parent whose favour the order is made may take the child abroad for up to one month without needing the permission of the other parent or permission of the court. However, it is responsible parenting to inform the other parent of the holiday, giving full information as to where you will be staying, your date of departure, return and details of the flight together with contact telephone numbers in the case of an emergency.

If I have a residence order for our child do I need the father’s permission to emigrate to Australia with our son?

Yes. It is imperative that you seek the father’s permission to remove your child from England or Wales. If the father refuses then you will need to make an application to the English court for permission to emigrate to Australia with your son. You will need to seek independent legal advice as to the merits of your application.

If my ex takes our daughter abroad without my permission can the court order him to bring her back?

If your former partner removes your child from this country without your permission then this amounts to child abduction. If this has occurred then you should take immediate advice from a specialist family solicitor to ascertain what steps you need to be taking. If, there is a risk that your ex partner may take your daughter out of the jurisdiction without your permission then again you should seek advice so that preventative measures can be put into place.

If either of you wish to relocate to another country on a permanent basis, then an application would need to be made to the court in the absence of the other parent refusing to the consent to the move.