A British woman has been given permission to apply for financial relief after her divorce in Bulgaria.
In Barnett v Barnett, the couple were married for over 40 years. For the majority of their married life, they lived in Stoke-on-Trent but relocated to Bulgaria in 2009.
The marriage broke down in 2012 and the following year their divorce was finalised in Bulgaria.
The wife claimed she was entitled to a share in her ex-husband’s British miner’s pension as the only income she had was the British state old age pension.
She was not awarded a share during the divorce because the Bulgarian court said it had “no power or jurisdiction in relation to this British miner’s pension”. As a result, she had to go through the English courts.
Under section 13 of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984, an application for financial relief cannot be made without the court’s permission. The section also states that there needs to be “substantial ground” to allow an application.
However, section 15 states that the English courts can only have jurisdiction in financial relief cases if one of the spouses was “domiciled in England and Wales on the date of the application for leave” or when the foreign divorce was finalised.
Mr Justice Holman said the woman was in a “Catch 22” position as she could not afford to return to England permanently without a share of her husband’s pension.
He added that, in these circumstances, “it is strongly arguable (and I put it no higher for the purposes of the present hearing) that she retains her English domicile of origin”.
The judge ruled that it was “clear” there was substantial ground for the woman’s application, so he “unhesitatingly” granted her permission.
Photo of the Bulgarian flag by Timon91 via Flickr