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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

EU sails into international divorce waters

“Divorce shopping” is a relatively new term to many. It relates to where a couple – or individual – looking to divorce and who can potentially do so in a number of countries, researches where they might get the best deal before starting proceedings.

So if an English man is married to Spanish lady and they are living in Italy, there are at least three sets of rules they could look at to see where they will bag a bargain.

Now the EU is looking to bring in new regulation to cut back on the growing practice.

Divorce across borders - or ex-pat divorce - is one of the more complicated areas of family law. Do you divorce under the country where you are currently living, your partner’s country or the country where you were born and raised? An expert family lawyer will tell you the pros and cons for most of this. Essentially, if you were born and raised English, you probably can still apply for the divorce under English law, which has the advantage of being quicker and cheaper than many other places (believe it or not) and, naturally, you can understand the paperwork.

Other legal systems are not as accommodating though and anomalies show distinct bias to one party or another. A husband might choose Sweden where possible, for example, because it is less common for maintenance to be awarded to the wife.

Ten EU countries want the rules – but this doesn’t include the UK. I am not quite sure the reasons behind this: it could be that it is felt we already do more than most to facilitate a swift and fair divorce. In fact, only ten member states out of 27 are involved at the moment.

The EU says around 300,000 couples marry each year across borders within the union. I would suggest that any rules to help ensure a fair split between them is a good thing so it will be interesting to see how this one develops. Surely everyone must be involved though to make it worthwhile?

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the current rules, click here to go to our new video blog discussing the issue.

Andrew Woolley
Divorce Solicitor


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