Marilyn on overseas divorce, featuring Julian Hawkhead

Divorce|November 17th 2014

In my latest video post, I am once again joined by the Managing Partner of Stowe Family Law’s Leeds office, Julian Hawkhead. This week, we discuss the key issues and pitfalls to look out for when a marriage breaks down abroad.

Few people give sufficient attention to the legal consequences of moving abroad. If they did, there may be less deeply unhappy people living abroad who feel trapped in a lifestyle from which they see no easy escape.

There are many pitfalls and, from a family law perspective, they are serious enough to make you wonder whether you might not be better staying here. If you are wondering how it might affect you then please take legal advice before committing yourself and moving abroad.

Ask yourself: if it all goes wrong, what then? How do I get divorced? How will I manage? What happens to all our money? What happens to our children – who do they live with? Life is all about the unexpected and family lawyers are used to answering questions about the “what ifs”, but those answers can be startling. No video can possibly deal with all the consequences. In this video, for example, we have concentrated on just a few issues but there are other equally serious issues.

Some of these issues relate to children and we want to give them more attention in a video which will be all about them.

In the meantime, there are certain matters which should be considered when an English national who has married the citizen of another country and has moved to live with them there or when both partners are English and the couple has moved overseas for work.

The first is jurisdiction. This is especially important within the European Union. Under EU rules, the country in which divorce proceedings are started is the one which will have to deal with the entirety of the case. As a result, you often see a race between separating spouses to secure jurisdiction in the country they think will give them the best result.

In some EU countries, for example, spousal maintenance does not exist. So, the country which has jurisdiction can make a radical difference to the outcome of a divorce.

In addition to issues surrounding jurisdiction, we also discuss the possibility of a post-nuptial agreement. Working the same way as a prenuptial agreement, a ‘postnup’ is a legal contract which sets out what each spouse can expect if their marriage eventually breaks down. They can deal with anything from the division of financial resources to where any children will live following the divorce.

Lawyers from both countries may need to be involved to make sure, as far as possible, that your wishes before you leave are adhered to in the unhappy event the nightmare scenario comes to pass. I’m sure it probably won’t but do not underestimate the additional stress of living in a different country, perhaps with a different language and culture, which might prove too much overall for the marriage to survive.

If you have any questions about this area of family law, the team of experts here at Stowe Family Law will always be happy to help or if you prefer to leave a question on the blog, I will do my best to answer it.

Julian is Stowe Family Law’s Senior Partner and is based in our Leeds office.

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  1. Andrew says:

    Tut tut, Marilyn. You can be an English resident of domiciliary but not an English citizen. Try British citizen.

    Feel free to mod this out and correct your text.

    Then do fifty lines!

  2. Name Witheld says:

    Hi, i have a massive problem…. ( ain’t we all)??? I had British husband and we got divorced iam Hungarian and he is British. My son born in Uk. I have a residential order I was constantly harassed by my ex for money and so on.he had 39 criminal conviction drugs, abuse,theft, fourd reported by cafcass my son doesn’t want to see him my child was stressed and confused when he had contact with his father. I asked the court to stop seeing him they orderd supervised visits….what? My son didn’t want to go… He begged me not to go he won’t live my side when his father around. My ex is extremely dangers I felt like a second class citizen no one would help. Not even social services! I felt danger and that no one would look at my sons best interest. I left the country now iam being accused international child and abduction. Any idea?

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