Dissolving boundaries: exploring international divorce and jurisdiction

Divorce proceedings with international and jurisdictional issues can be complex. It is therefore important to obtain specialist advice if your situation involves a foreign divorce as you will need to know how it might be recognised under English law. This can include the financial aspects associated with the divorce too.

Where should I get divorced?

It is common for individuals to ask the question about where they can divorce especially if some of the following issues are relevant:

  • You got married abroad
  • One spouse, or both is based abroad
  • You have relocated to another country
  • There are assets outside of the UK

A divorce has to take place in a set country and spouses might disagree on which country it should proceed in. This is not always straightforward because couples may have various international elements to their relationship.

I was married abroad; can I divorce in the UK?

If you got married outside of England and Wales, this does not mean that your divorce has to be dealt with in the same country you married in.

In England and Wales, a marriage which took place abroad can be recognised here provided the ceremony was valid.

Will my divorce in England & Wales be recognised abroad?

If you would like your divorce to be recognised abroad, you should obtain specialist advice in the law of that country as it will depend upon their national laws.

In relation to EU countries, following Brexit, whether or not your divorce is recognised in EU countries will depend on your divorce date and whether the relevant EU country has signed the Hague Convention.

Divorce no longer first past the post

This rule no longer applies for divorces started on or after 01 January 2021. This means that if your spouse starts divorce proceedings in an EU country on or after this date, you can still potentially apply for a divorce in England & Wales regardless of who applied first.

Who decides where you get divorced?

You should first try to agree where to get divorced and this might usually be where there is the most appropriate connection. In England & Wales, there are certain factors to consider if you want to divorce here such as:

  • What your nationality is or your citizenship
  • Where you live
  • Where your domicile is set
  • Where your assets are located
  • Whether there are any relevant cultural issues to consider
  • If you have children, where they attend school

How does my overseas divorce affect me in England and Wales?

It is important to establish whether your overseas divorce is recognised in England and Wales. This is important as it could impact your will or inheritance, tax, financial remedies available to you and you may wish to remarry in England and Wales. You may also wish to obtain specialist advice if you have a religious divorce, an example of this is that a Jewish Get will not be recognised in England and Wales.

What about my overseas divorce and my finances?

If you already have a divorce from another country, this might be because there are assets overseas. This may lead to questions around the financial aspects of your situation and how the financial aspects have been dealt with.

Individuals who have divorced overseas and have a connection with England and Wales can access the financial remedies available in this jurisdiction if you have suffered hardship by reason of the foreign divorce.

This type of claim is known as a "Part III Claim". This piece of legislation deals with financial provision after a foreign divorce. It allows applications for financial claims where the divorce in another country was inadequate or does not meet your needs. There is a strict criterion for this type of application and you must meet the following:

  • You must not have remarried
  • You must have a sufficient connection with England and Wales
  • Your foreign divorce must have been legally valid in that country

If you meet the requirements, you can ask the court to make further orders relating to property, for example a property be transferred or sold, or money; a lump sum order or pension sharing or maintenance provision.

If you would like to know more about whether a Part III claim is relevant to you, please speak to our specialist advisers in our team for further information.