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Divorce with an international element – shopping around

In this day and age we see an increase in international families and inevitably this has a knock on effect when sadly those relationships come to an end.

It can lead to a process known amongst divorce lawyers as ‘forum shopping’ and family practitioners must always give consideration to the best forum to use for a client where there is any international element in relation to issues concerning divorce and separation.

Financial provision and outcomes on legal separation and divorce can vary greatly between different countries and where there are two or more country jurisdictions in which family law proceedings could be commenced, consideration must be given right from the start of a matter as to the best jurisdiction for the client.

Whilst family lawyers operating under the laws of England and Wales will be able to give a good indication of how an English court will approach a particular case the difficulty arises in relation to obtaining proper advice on how the law in different countries might tackle the same issue. Only having considered both options can an informed decision be made by a client as to which is the preferable option.

Speed can often make a difference. In Europe jurisdiction is often secured by the first to issue proceedings. That means the first person to make an application to court effectively prevents the other party using their country of choice to divorce. This can be significant since matrimonial law in some countries is more generous than in others.

However, it is crucial to balance speed, tactical advantages and financial benefits of forum shopping with the possible wider impact on the client and their ongoing family relationships. Such cases are inevitably emotional and distressing to clients and in particular can impact negatively on the prospects of co-parenting.

We English divorce lawyers learn the conciliatory approach right from day one in law school and many family practitioners are somewhat taken aback when proceedings abroad are conducted in an often very aggressive fashion which inevitably has an adverse effect regarding any resolution in England. It is crucial therefore for a practitioner to remain as constructive and settlement oriented within international cases as they are in any other area of family law and not to get carried away with the exoticism of international cases at the risk to potential settlement.

At Woolley & Co we have extensive experience of dealing with international divorce and family law cases and have built up a network of foreign lawyers to whom we can refer clients for advice on the laws as they apply in a particular country. What’s more we always work closely with those international lawyers to ensure that the correct jurisdiction is chosen and that any subsequent court order made within the English system is drawn up in such a way as to maximise the effectiveness of enforcing an order in relation to assets that exist within a different jurisdiction. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case, and your average high street lawyer may not be able to help in cases of a divorce where there is an international element.

So when it comes to a divorce that crosses international boundaries make sure you choose a lawyer with the right experience and do consider all of your options before you make any kind of application.

Judith Buckland
Divorce Solicitor in Wells, Somerset

Blog Author - Judith Buckland

Judith BucklandJudith Buckland

Judith is a divorce solicitor with Woolley & Co, based in Wells, Somerset.

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