Rainscourt Family Law Solicitors

International divorce: one million EU divorces a year

As Eurovision concludes for another year, and with European Parliamentary elections due to take place across Europe over the next three days,  you may be interested to know that you have the opportunity to vote in a third European poll over the next couple of months.

The European Commission wants to know about your views on a more family law focussed issue, specifically whether you consider the regulation that governs cross border international divorce law is working, and if not, why not.  You will not be able to do this at the ballot box tomorrow, but you will be able to have your say by clicking on to the consultation paper below*.

Around 16 million (13%) of the 122 million marriages in the EU have a cross-border dimension, and each year more than 2.2 million new marriages are contracted in the EU and approximately 1 million marriages are dissolved.  The regulation that controls international divorce affects a huge number of EU citizens.

The regulation in question, called Brussels IIa,  is the law to which international divorce solicitors turn to determine whether a client has “jurisdiction” or the right to divorce in England and Wales.  The list, which is set out at article 3 of that regulation, explains that you are entitled to divorce in this country if you or your spouse fall within the specific list of rules about residence and domicile, which I will list at the end of this blog.

The list of rules does not determine the superiority of one country’s legal system over another.  It simply determines whether you are entitled to divorce in that member state or not.  As a result,  in international relationships, there is a possibility that a couple ends up in a “rush to court” as each tries to secure the country of their choice, usually determined by whether the financial rules of that states suit their circumstances the best.  The goal of the EU is to phase out this “rush to court” which still exists between certain EU states, and tried to do so by introducing a regulation called Rome III, in which divorce laws were harmonised across member states thus eliminating any incentive to forum shop. Only some of the EU states adopted Rome III, and the UK was not one of them, and therefore the rush to court remains an ever present possibility.

The question raised on this particular topic in the poll is:

Do you think that the ways of identifying the responsible court in matrimonial matters should be revised so as to better reduce the risk of a “rush to court”?


I will post details on the outcome of this consultation when it is published.


* http://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/BXLIIA

Article 3

In matters relating to divorce, legal separation or marriage annulment, jurisdiction shall lie with the courts of the Member State
(a) in whose territory:

— the spouses are habitually resident,

or— the spouses were last habitually resident, insofar as one of them still resides there,

or— the respondent is habitually resident,

or— in the event of a joint application, either of the spouses is habitually resident,

or— the applicant is habitually resident if he or she resided there for at least a year immediately before the application was made,

or — the applicant is habitually resident if he or she resided there for at least six months immediately before the application was made and is either a national of the Member State in question or, in the case of the United Kingdom and Ireland, has his or her ‘domicile’ there;

(b) of the nationality of both spouses or, in the case of the United Kingdom and Ireland, of the ‘domicile’ of both spouses


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