A divorce through the English courts may be available to you if you are living outside the UK or are living in the UK but originally from another part of the world. There are added complexities to a divorce in such cases. At Woolley & Co, we sometimes refer to this as an ‘expat divorce’.
International Divorce - How To Divorce Someone Who Lives in a Different Country
Divorce advice for British Expats
Our international divorce solicitors regularly handle divorce for expats living in Spain, France, the USA, Canada, the UAE, Thailand, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, in fact, all areas of the world. They also deal with divorce for armed forces personnel posted overseas.
You may need an expat divorce if:
- You are originally from England or Wales but currently live in another part of the world and want to use the English Courts to obtain a divorce.
- Your marriage took place abroad.
- You have lived outside the UK for many years, have only recently returned and want to divorce here.
- You and/or your spouse are from outside the UK, have made your home in England or Wales and choose to divorce here.
- Your spouse lives outside the UK, and there may be issues in tracing them or debate about where to get divorced.
There may be other circumstances where an ‘expat divorce’ or international divorce law applies. There are some complex legal issues to consider, so it is always best to take advice from an experienced international divorce solicitor familiar with divorce issues across jurisdictions.
Most of our lawyers are able to offer advice on international and expat divorce issues, including how to get a divorce in the UK, advice on issues of jurisdiction (whether you would be eligible for an expat divorce), as well as the international relocation of children, or ‘leave to remove’ as it is sometimes called.
See examples of our international divorce expertise here.
Take a look at our team to find an international divorce solicitor who is right for you.
Speak to an experienced international divorce solicitor today
Take advantage of a free 30-minute telephone appointment to talk through your situation. We will explain your options and how we can help. You will find our international divorce lawyers are friendly, approachable and knowledgeable.
We offer a detailed case assessment allowing time for discussion and consideration of your case by an experienced lawyer.
How our international divorce solicitors in the UK can help you
Fixed fee expat divorce
Woolley & Co offer a special fixed price divorce service for an expat divorce. In cases of uncontested divorce, we can handle your divorce from start to finish, preparing all the necessary paperwork, filing papers at the court and considering all issues of jurisdiction (i.e. which country’s laws apply).
Divorce advice for UK expats
If you are a British expat living abroad and wish to get divorced in the UK, our experienced international divorce solicitors can help. We are happy to work with you over the phone, via email and through videoconferencing and can ensure all of the necessary paperwork is filed with the appropriate English divorce court. We can also advise on dealing with issues such as arrangements for children and finances, taking into consideration your circumstances.
Getting divorced in the UK if you married abroad
If you married abroad, but you and your spouse are both habitually resident or domiciled in England or Wales, then you will likely be eligible to have your divorce dealt with through the English court system. If only one of you is based in England or Wales, then you may still be eligible to divorce here.
Divorcing through the English courts if you have recently returned to the UK
If you have been living abroad but have recently returned to live in England or Wales, then you may be eligible to get divorced in an English or Welsh court depending on the circumstances. We recommend speaking to one of our specialist international divorce solicitors as soon as possible to clarify your situation and ensure you fully understand your options.
Choosing to divorce in the UK if you have made your home in England or Wales
If you are not from England or Wales originally, you will likely be eligible to divorce in an English or Welsh court if you have made your permanent home here. This will depend on the exact situation, including where you got married and whether your marriage is recognised under English law, so please speak to one of our international divorce law experts to find out if we can help.
Getting divorced in the UK if your spouse lives abroad
As long as you are habitually resident in England or Wales, you will usually be able to initiate divorce proceedings in an English or Welsh court. Our international divorce lawyers can advise you on whether this option is open to you and guide you through the entire process, as well as advising on how your spouse living abroad may impact issues such as division of matrimonial finances and arrangements for children.
UK divorce involving international assets
When dealing with the division of matrimonial finances in England or Wales, there is a legal requirement to disclose all assets held by both parties, including those in the UK and overseas. International assets can be complicated to deal with when getting divorced, so it is important to have specialist advice to make sure you reach a fair division of finances that meets your needs, whether through an amicable settlement or court proceedings.
At Woolley & Co solicitors, we have exceptional expertise in complex divorce financial matters, including those involving international assets. We can provide clear advice on your rights, help with negotiating a settlement and represent you in court proceedings if required.
International relocation with children
Moving children from one country to another can be very challenging for everyone involved. It is absolutely essential that your children’s best interests are kept at the forefront at all times, while also protecting your relationship with them.
Our international divorce lawyers are highly experienced in advising individuals and separating couples on international relocation of children, so we can help to make sure you consider the issue from all angles and that you find the right way forward for your children. Wherever possible, we will seek an amicable agreement, but we have strong expertise in making successful court applications for permission to take children abroad and for Prohibited Steps Orders preventing the removal of a child from England and Wales.
Key facts about international divorce
Can I divorce in England if I live abroad?
You may well be able to if you can prove a link back to the UK, for example you were born here, still have property or business interests here and / or intend to return to live here. This is quite a complex area of law, known as international jurisdiction, so it is best to take advice on your particular set of circumstances.
What is an expat divorce?
We use the term expat or international divorce to describe any divorce using the English court system in the following circumstances:
- If you are originally from England or Wales but currently live in another part of the world.
- If your marriage took place abroad.
- If you have lived outside the UK for a number of years, have only recently returned and want to divorce here.
- If you and / or your spouse are from outside the UK, have made your home in England or Wales and choose to divorce here.
- If your spouse lives outside the UK and there may be issues in tracing them or debate about where to get divorced.
There may be other circumstances where an ‘expat divorce’ or international divorce law applies. There are some complex legal issues to consider so it always best to take advice from a lawyer experienced in international divorce issues.
Am I eligible for divorce under the laws of England and Wales?
The most common question that expats ask is ‘am I eligible for a divorce under English law’. The main issues to be answered are in relation to where you and your spouse are ‘domiciled’ (see below) and where you are habitually resident (normally live).
Domicile is a legal concept used to link an individual with a particular legal system. It takes into account where you were born as well as where you are living now and your intentions for the future.
Our international divorce lawyers will be able to advise you whether you are eligible for a divorce through the English Courts and, in straightforward situations, may be able to do this during a half hour telephone appointment.
Deciding where to divorce
As it can be beneficial to use the English legal system to process your divorce, you should always take advice on whether you are eligible to divorce under English law.
If your circumstances are at all complicated, for example, you married abroad, either party is not a UK citizen or, you live or are domiciled in different countries, then there are complicated rules which apply, and so your circumstances may need to be explored in much more detail.
Our detailed case assessment is appropriate in these circumstances to ensure you receive the best possible advice.
Limitations of the English Courts
There are some limitations on what can be ordered through the English court system, for instance, regarding foreign owned property, depending on whether any potential orders for its sale or transfer are capable of being enforced in the country in which they are held.
This is a highly difficult and procedural area of the law, and advice should be sought from the outset to determine other ways in which such property can be dealt with, such as offsetting a party’s interest in other assets of the marriage in order that such property can be retained.
That said, if an agreement can be reached between the parties as to a sale or transfer of that foreign property, the Court here will approve it. One of our international divorce lawyers will be able to advise on your options.
A note about Scottish Law
The law in England and Wales is different to the law in Scotland. If you and/or spouse consider yourself to be Scottish citizens, you both normally live in Scotland, lived in Scotland during the marriage or have a stronger connection with Scotland than England or Wales, you should take advice from a solicitor qualified in Scotland.
If one of you is Scottish and the other from overseas, you may still be able to divorce in England. Call us to discuss your circumstances on 0800 321 3832.
Can I stop my former spouse taking our children abroad?
To take a child abroad, a parent needs the permission of everyone else who has parental responsibility for that child. Whether you have parental responsibility will depend on the circumstances, but if you are the child’s birth mother, were married to or in a civil partnership with the birth mother when the child was born, were named on the birth certificate, registered as a legal parent or have an Adoption Order, it is likely you do have parental responsibility.
If you do not give consent for your child or children to be taken abroad, their other parent can apply to the courts for permission to remove the child from England and Wales, but you would have the chance to oppose this application.
If you are concerned that the other parent may attempt to remove your child or children from the country without your permission, then you can apply to a court for a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent this.
Need advice from an international divorce solicitor?
Examples of our international divorce advice services
Our international divorce lawyers assist clients in the UK and internationally facing a wide range of situations, with examples of our work including:
- Supporting a UK ex-pat living in Belgium with child arrangements and financial settlement in a complex cross-border divorce with a Belgian national
- Acting for an English client living in the US and working in India with assets in the Far East, responding to divorce proceedings started in India
- Contested proceedings involving foreign pension assets
- Advising a parent in relation to a court application to remove their children from the UK
Our international divorce lawyers in the UK are here for you
Going through a divorce is never easy, but when there is an international component, it can make things even more challenging. Our team are here to guide you and make this process as simple and stress-free as possible.