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International divorce and jurisdiction

When beginning an International Divorce process, it’s important to consider which country the court proceedings will be issued. This is also known as jurisdiction.

What is jurisdiction?

Put simply, jurisdiction is the country in which court proceedings relating to your divorce, finances and child matters will be dealt with.

How is jurisdiction determined?

If your divorce has an international element, it is likely that you could divorce in more than one jurisdiction. However, it can be more complex than simply choosing the country in which you feel the outcome will suit you best. You must have a valid connection to the country you want to divorce in. For example:

  • Habitual residence – The country that you live in regularly or are living in
  • Domicile – The country which is your permanent home
  • Nationality – where you are a national of that country
  • Where the marriage took place – the country you were married in.

International Divorce FAQs

International Divorce FAQs

  • Where will my divorce case be heard?

    That depends.

    Prior to the UK’s exit from the European Union, if you were starting divorce proceedings within the EU, you must consider the ‘race for jurisdiction’ where divorce proceedings commenced in the first country in which the divorce application was successfully filed. However, this is no longer the case.

    Instead, now if there is a dispute as to whether England and Wales or an EU country should deal with the divorce, the country with the closest connection to the couple will be given jurisdiction, and any decisions about the divorce, financial settlements or child matters will be made using that nation’s laws.

    Divorce laws and processes differ greatly from country to country, so seeking advice from an International Family Lawyer on which country is the most appropriate and relevant place for your divorce to be dealt with is important.

  • Where is the best place to divorce?

    It is unlikely that two countries have the exact same divorce laws, so deciding which one to file in is no easy task. You must consider what assets you have and how differently they could be divided depending on where the case is heard.

    To determine this, it’s recommended that you seek legal advice from professionals who specialise in international family law, like Stowe Family Law.

    We will be able to outline the pros and cons of issuing proceedings in England and Wales so that you can compare them to the position in other jurisdictions. This advice is vital and could impact the outcome of your divorce.

    Without accurate information, you may find it more difficult to get a fair settlement when the process is completed.

  • International Child Custody

    Arrangements for children during international divorces can be particularly complex where parent relocation may be a factor and joint custody can be unfeasible due to geographical challenges.

    Our dedicated team are experienced in international child custody cases and will work with you to prioritise the needs of you and your family during divorce.

  • Contact Stowe, International Divorce Solicitors

    At Stowe, our best divorce solicitors have decades of experience between them working on international divorce cases. Don’t entrust your unique case with local family law solicitors with no international expertise; talk to the best family law solicitors with nearly forty around the country including in London, Leeds, Newcastle, Cardiff, Manchester and Birmingham.

    We carefully tailor our advice to every client, which is an absolute necessity in international divorces; every case with tax and pension concerns is different to the last. Call us at 0330 404 2031, or, request a free call back on a date and at a time of your choice.

International divorce and finances

Tax and pensions matters can be complex in any divorce. However, there are specific factors to consider for international divorces which vary from country to country.

In England and Wales, the divorce process is separate from the financial settlement. While it’s not recommended, this means that you can be divorced without having achieved a financial settlement.

However, the divorce process can be different in other jurisdictions, and it may not be possible to conclude your divorce without the financial matters being resolved at the same time.

International divorce and finances

Tax and pensions matters can be complex in any divorce. However, there are specific factors to consider for international divorces which vary from country to country.

In England and Wales, the divorce process is separate from the financial settlement. While it’s not recommended, this means that you can be divorced without having achieved a financial settlement.

However, the divorce process can be different in other jurisdictions, and it may not be possible to conclude your divorce without the financial matters being resolved at the same time.

  • International divorce and financial settlements

    A divorce financial settlement is the process of dividing your assets and liabilities. It is designed to resolve any financial issues and fairly separate your assets to ensure that both parties have financial security and certainty going forwards. The same process applies to an international divorce where it is equally important that matters are resolved or there is a risk that claims can be brought in the future.

    It is legally possible to come to such an agreement with your partner without the assistance of divorce law solicitors. However, this is particularly unwise in the event of international and high net worth divorces, which are particularly complex.

  • Capital Gains Tax and International Divorce

    Transfers of assets between spouses or civil partners do not usually give rise to a Capital Gains Tax (CGT) charge. However, this rule only applies to spouses or civil partners that are living together at some point during the tax year.

    In relation to the family home, if that property has been the couple’s main residence throughout ownership, any gains arising from its sale are exempt from CGT. However, where one spouse moves out of the matrimonial home and buys or rents a new property then relief will usually only be available on their share of the gain for 9 months from when they moved out. This can be extended in some circumstances.

  • Inheritance and international divorce

    Transfers between spouses are exempt from Inheritance Tax (IHT), and this continues throughout the period of separation up until the final order.

    Where one spouse is not resident in the UK, the maximum that can be transferred free of inheritance tax is £325,000.

  • Pensions and International Divorce

    In relation to pensions, if you’re an international couple, the situation can become more complicated as for example, the US authorities treat post-tax split of pensions differently to the UK.

    In the UK, courts deal with pension arrangements via pension sharing, pension offsetting or a pension attachment order.

    At Stowe, we will assess your personal circumstances and tailor our international divorce advice to meet your exact requirements and jurisdiction.

  • Contact Stowe’s International Divorce Lawyers

    At Stowe, our divorce solicitors have decades of experience between them working on international divorce cases and we know that each case is unique. With close to 50 offices nationwide, Stowe have a dedicated team of international divorce lawyers local to you.

    Call us at 0330 404 2031 or request a free call back on a date and at a time of your choice.

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0330 056 3171

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Submit your details, and we’ll arrange a free, no-obligation callback at a time to suit you. Please note that we cannot offer Legal aid.

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Filomena is renowned for providing honest and clear client-focused advice, using a non-adversarial approach where possible and problem solving to resolve matters in the most effective way. She is based at our Chelmsford office.

Date last reviewed: 05/06/2024

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