Rainscourt Family Law Solicitors

The international posting: expat divorces

I was interested to read recently that the wonderful scientists of Oxford University have located a molecule in the human body which acts as a brake, delaying adjustment to new time zones. It is called SIK1. As a result of this breakthrough, it is believed that we are now only several years away from a cure for jet lag.  This will come as welcome news to frequent flyers, and no doubt, to those who move abroad with their families.  Small children and jet lag are often an unhappy combination.

Unfortunately, moves abroad can, and do, result in marriage breakdowns and so called “expat divorces”. The pressure of adjusting to a new culture, particularly for a trailing spouse who may not have the same opportunity as their spouse has for support from employer or family, can lead to separation. Sometimes the routine of home supports a failing relationship, which crumbles when that structure is removed.

Many UK citizens who move abroad find themselves in difficult and isolated positions when their marriage breaks down, particularly if they have moved to the country of their spouse’s family or employer.  If you read an expat forum, there will inevitably be a thread on that site discussing divorce, and seeking advice on how to find a divorce lawyer in that particular country.

It is important to understand that divorce law is not harmonised across all the European nations, or indeed, the world: every country has different rules. Consequently, if you obtain advice from legal representatives in each of the relevant jurisdictions in which you are entitled to divorce, you can decide, with all the facts at your disposal, as to which forum is most appropriate for you and your family.  This is sometimes called “forum shopping”: choosing the most beneficial court for your divorce.  Spouses from other countries may also divorce in the UK if they meet the relevant criteria.  The EU court has produced an agreed set of circumstances which determines when an individual can choose a particular court in the EU.  It is often the case that the “first in time” will be the prevailing jurisdiction, and so lawyers, in a rush to court, will ask for a receipt from the court, noting the time at which a divorce petition is issued in a particular country.

If you are contemplating exiting an “international” marriage you should obtain specific advice on your own particular set of circumstances, to ensure that you are aware of all your options.


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