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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

A divorce in the sun

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When the cold weather sets in for good as it has done in the last week, my mind turns to one of two things: Christmas or living somewhere warmer.

I was doing quite well at avoiding all signs of Christmas until a couple of Mondays ago and then it was like someone had “switched on Christmas”. The songs of the radio, the ads on the TV, the food in the supermarkets, suddenly Christmas was here. And the cold snap, as the papers like to say, has compounded that feeling. It is all a slippery sledge ride now down to December 25. Don’t get me wrong, I do like Christmas, but it does sometimes feel like Santa’s own blitzkrieg.

The snow and ice though can lead many, like myself, to thinking what it would be like to live somewhere warmer. Never need to buy de-icer again, no need for extra woolly socks and no bobble hats. There are more than a million Brits living abroad, according to the Institute for Public Policy research. An incredible 38 per cent of over-55s are thinking of relocating in the next few years, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Living abroad has many advantages and I would guess that most people do see all the positives without any of the negatives. Working in a family law firm for so long though has given me a real insight into the difficulties that some people can have if they are living abroad and their relationship goes South. For some, particularly it seems those in the older age brackets, a move abroad can be a last attempt to salvage a relationship. Once they have moved to their apartment in Tenerife or Florida though, they can find that it hasn’t worked. Indeed, without the support network of family and friends they enjoyed at home, it can accelerate the end – but people find themselves completely at a loss with what to do then. Where can they get a divorce? Do they need a lawyer in the country they are living in?

You will need an ex-pat divorce if you are originally from England or Wales, currently living in another part of the world and want to use the English Courts to obtain a divorce, or if you have lived outside the UK for a number of years, have only recently returned and want to divorce here.

The question of whether a person can divorce under English law (rather than under the law of where they are currently living) revolves around the question of where they are “domiciled”.

This is a legal point which takes into account where they were born as well as where they are living now and their intentions for the future.

There are distinct advantages to using English law (language, speed, cost) which is why many individuals living abroad choose this route. There are significant limitations as well though, for instance any foreign property cannot be included in the division of assets.

Whatever the position, expert advice from an experienced family lawyer used to dealing with divorce across borders should be sought.

To find out more, check out our Fact Sheet – Can I Divorce in the UK?

Andrew Woolley
Divorce solicitor

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