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.