Divorce and Separation for Expatriates

13 December 2017

With families and relationships becoming ever more international, we are regularly consulted by people who have moved abroad as a family, often for work, only to find that living overseas is not all they had wished for.

Strain may have been placed on their relationship or marriage which has then led to difficulties and the need for family law advice.

If expatriates wish to divorce in England and Wales, but are still living abroad, they can usually still seek divorce and financial remedies ancillary to divorce through the English court. In addition, they may need to or may prefer to remain living overseas despite the breakdown in their relationship. Advice is often needed as to how they can achieve this, taking into consideration how they are sponsored abroad and how the laws in the country they are now living in will affect them if they have become separated.

There seems to be a widening of countries that potential expatriates are considering for a relocation, and a gradual increased awareness of the contrast between UK and the other countries’ domestic laws. Expatriates are giving greater thought to a move abroad and its possible consequences; they are removing the rose tinted glasses of the expat lifestyle and seriously considering how a move may play out.

It also is important to consider how the instigation of a legal process in England and Wales will impact the family if both spouses are still living as expatriates in another jurisdiction. The first consideration is whether, even if they are living overseas, they can consider commencing divorce proceedings through the courts of England and Wales. Much will focus on where they had lived before their proposed move, where each party was born and where they consider to be their home. It is important to seek advice, early, from a family lawyer in England, if you have moved abroad as an expatriate. This is because, there may be more than one country that would have jurisdiction to deal with the divorce and financial remedies of the particular case. It may be financially preferable for the divorce process to be commenced in England and Wales as opposed to in another country that may have jurisdiction. The timing of the issued proceedings may be critical.

By Helen Habershon

For further advice on the above topics, please call us on 01483 543210 or alternatively email