Expat families: What happens if my marriage breaks down whilst living in England?

International Family Law Specialist, David Hodson answers your questions on issues that affect an ever increasing number of families who live and work abroad…

 
 

dhQ: My wife and I were married in Wellington fifteen years ago and have been living and working in London since 2005. We both had fantastic jobs in the City and have done very well for ourselves financially whilst living in the UK, sadly our marriage has not been as successful. My wife has recently said that she wants a divorce; do we have to go back to New Zealand in order to get divorced or can we divorce here?

A: You do not need to get divorced in the same country in which you were married. The English courts can deal with any issues concerning a marriage which took place abroad as long as you can show a sufficient connection with England (known as “jurisdiction”). However the New Zealand courts may also be able to deal with the divorce and related financial matters too.  You should take advice as to which country is better for you.

It is important to tread carefully in these circumstances – divorce and any financial claims following the breakdown of marriage can be a complicated area for international families. Financial outcomes following divorce vary dramatically from country to country. Whereas England has famously gained a reputation for being the “divorce capital of the world” because of the generous financial awards spouses can receive, other countries can make much less favourable awards to former spouses.

There may be other factors to bear in mind. Different countries vary in the time proceedings can take, the extent of enquires into the financial circumstances of each party, the laws relating to sharing pensions and overseas property and how easy it will be to enforce any court decision.

Q: So issuing in one country rather than another can matter a lot?

A: Yes, it may be much more advantageous for proceedings to take place in one country than another. You need advice from a specialist lawyer to help you to compare the likely outcomes in each country and to choose where best to issue.

Q: Is it different if we have connections with another EU country?

A: Yes, within Europe the decision as to where proceedings will take place comes down simply to who issues proceedings first.  Outcomes around Europe differ even more than England-New Zealand so issuing first is of the essence!

Q: How are New Zealand and England different?

A: England more often grants alimony/spousal maintenance orders than New Zealand. New Zealand and England have similar expectations of equal sharing but the New Zealand system is more rigid and England is more likely to depart from equality to provide for the needs of one spouse for income or capital. It can vary case by case as to which country favours which spouse. Urgent specialist legal advice should therefore be taken to navigate the complex issues at play before taking any further steps.

David Hodson, is a Partner and dual qualified English and Australian lawyer at The International Family Law Group LLP – a law firm specialising in international family law matters based in Covent Garden, London. To speak to David or his team at The International Family Law Group call 0203 178 5668, email [email protected] or visit www.iflg.uk.com

 

 

 
 

 
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