This article was authored by Alexandra Tribe.
British expat divorce and misinformation
Many expatriates living around the world generally suffer from a great deal of misinformation regarding family law matters. Fellow expats are quick to give an opinion, even when not qualified to give advice. For most people, an international aspect to their separation makes seeing someone expert, qualified to advise and experienced in such matters even more important than when living back home. It is often difficult to find a clear answer to family law issues, with many sources of information available online and social media providing a platform for the uninformed to inform their views.
Finding the right people to help
The problem comes when relying upon that misinformation to make some of the most important decisions you will ever make, regarding your divorce, finances, children or personal safety; all those can be jeopardised by proceeding wrongly: whether in the wrong country, with the wrong application or even the wrong tone. Ultimately, there are few people who are qualified and experienced in international family law issues; it is a niche area.
International family law cases
Expatriate Law only work on international family law cases, and, almost unique amongst English family law firms, have practitioners based around the world in expatriate locations. We have decades of experience in international family law, both in terms of practising whilst based abroad and appearing before judges in England. We practise at the highest level of international family law cases, having been involved in many of the landmark principled decisions on international family law issues. We are proud to be part of a small international family law community of English lawyers, who are able to properly combine expertise with experience of international family law issues.
Picking up the pieces
We routinely see clients whom have been advised wrongly regarding the appropriate steps available to them. We have been campaigning for years to provide as much information as possible to people to help them make good decisions in separation from their former or soon-to-be-former spouse, we continue to pursue our challenge to that misinformation. We firmly believe that making properly informed and sensible decisions at the start of family law proceedings is usually the best way of reaching an amicable resolution, founded on culturally appropriate grounds of fairness.
Where to Start
If you are a British expat living overseas and you are considering divorcing or separating from your spouse or partner, you will be wondering where to begin and what law will apply to you. You may think that you need to divorce in the country in which you were married; this is not the case. If you or your husband/wife were born in England, or have connections to England, you may be able to divorce through the English courts. You can read more about whether you can divorce in England on our jurisdiction advice page. If you contact us, one of our lawyers will telephone you without charge to give advice whether you can divorce in England.
It is important to have the right advice at an early stage. Many people that come to see us will not go on to divorce or separate; but have found that being in a position of knowledge and understanding of their position and rights, give them a better stance in which to move forward with their marriage during a rocky patch. Being equipped with such advice will allow you to move forward feeling empowered and protected. You will be given legal advice but also practical steps that you can take to safeguard yourself and your family.
Can I divorce or make financial claims in England?
You do not need to live in England or have been married in England to start a divorce there, or bring financial claims there following separation. It is necessary to have a link to England, for example:
- One of you live in England
- One of you are domiciled in England (usually as a result of being born in England or Wales, being born to an English or Welsh parent, or having lived for a period of time in England or Wales)
- One of you has property or other assets in England
The divorce process in England is generally administrative. This means that usually neither of you will need to see a judge to get a divorce, as it is almost always approved as a paper application. You can divorce based on a period or separation, or by citing your spouse's unreasonable behaviour, adultery or desertion. We encourage clients to ensure the petition is drafted in a mild and unconfrontational way to ensure that the divorce proceeds smoothly, with the minimum of time, upset and expense.
If you and your spouse are not in agreement regarding arrangements for children and finances these will be dealt with separately (but at the same time) from the divorce process.
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. For any further queries or follow up please contact Expatriate Law at firstname.lastname@example.org.