8 August 2020

Do you own property internationally? Were you married internationally? How does that affect your property settlement?



A difficulty can arise for families with competing laws in different countries about divorce and the division of assets.
Australia Family and Matrimonial
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Not all property settlement divisions are as cut and dry as a nuclear family with a single matrimonial home.

With the globe at our fingertips due to air travel, some families have homes in multiple countries and own property in different parts of the world.

A difficulty can arise for these families, where there are competing laws in different countries about divorce and the division of assets. When in doubt, seek legal advice to clarify which laws apply to you.

A recent matter before the High Court of Australia (Clayton v Bant [2020]) considered the competing laws in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Australia in relation to the division of property.1

In that matter, the wife was from Australia and the husband from Dubai. The couple owned properties in Dubai, Australia and other countries around the world. The husband applied for a divorce in Dubai and the wife applied in Australia.

While the parties were divorced formally in Dubai, that divorce did not separate the properties owned by the husband and wife in Australia.

As the wife lives in Australia, her application to the court in Australia also sought to divide the properties that the parties owned in Australia.

Now, there's this tricky rule which stops the court from hearing a matter which has already been decided by a court (unless there's an appeal).

As the divorce had already been dealt with in another country, the court had to determine whether all matters had already been dealt with in Dubai, or whether the Australian courts could still decide on the division of the Australian properties.

The High Court has granted special leave to hear the matter on appeal and will decide whether the wife can bring those proceedings in Australia.

Stay tuned for the outcome of the High Court judgment in the coming months.


1 Clayton v Bant [2020] HCATrans 50 (17 April 2020)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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