Handling Overseas Assets in Divorce – How a Family Lawyer Can Help

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Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

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There’s no denying that divorce proceedings are emotionally difficult, and they can be made even more complicated when overseas assets are involved.

If you have foreign assets to divide between you and your ex-spouse, you might be feeling unsure about where to start – especially if you’re unable to agree between yourselves about how the assets should be split.

It can be difficult to figure out what to do in terms of dealing with the overseas assets you share with your ex-spouse, especially if you don’t know the law around this matter – and many people don’t. Once you understand the basics, you’ll be well-equipped going forward and dealing with splitting these assets fairly between yourself and your ex-spouse.

In this article, we’ve outlined how overseas assets are typically handled in a divorce, the importance of having a Financial Order and how a Family Lawyer can help you if your ex-spouse is not complying with the terms of your Court Order.

Read on to find out more or speak to our specialist Family and Divorce Lawyers for initial advice.

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To find out more about how our divorce lawyers can help with overseas assets in divorce, contact our friendly and dedicated team.

How are Overseas Assets Distributed in a Divorce?

If you’re getting divorced in England or Wales and you or your ex-spouse have overseas assets, these will be considered under the same legal principles that apply to the division of all your other assets. This means that once any foreign assets are valued, the value can be shared between you and your former spouse.

But it’s important to note that there are factors that can shift the division of overseas assets in favour of one spouse. These will apply if you’re unable to come to a decision yourselves as to how your assets should be divided and could include:

  • The length of the marriage – generally, the longer you’ve been married, the more likely it will be that a judge rules that your assets should be split equally. But if your marriage was short, and you haven’t had any children, the Court might instead aim to restore you both to your previous financial positions and rule that you keep your respective assets.
  • When each asset was acquired – if you or your ex have assets abroad that were purchased before you got married, it is unlikely that these will be considered “matrimonial property”, and they may be excluded from the proceedings. This could differ, however, if you own a property that was lived in as a family home.
  • The housing needs of each parent where children are involved – if you have children with your ex-partner, the Court will take this into consideration when deciding how assets will be divided. Their ultimate goal will be to reach an outcome that is in the children’s best interest.
  • The earning potential of each person – it’s not unusual where children are involved for one parent to take time away from their career, potentially affecting their future earning ability. The Court will take this into account when determining what an “equal” split of assets would look like in your individual circumstances.

The process of identifying and distributing foreign assets can be made more difficult when a consistent record of purchases hasn’t been kept. This can prolong divorce proceedings and create additional stress for everyone involved.

We would recommend using the services of a forensic accountant who will help you locate all your foreign assets – ensuring that none are missed or hidden – and provide you with an accurate valuation before the process of distribution begins. 

Once it’s been decided how your assets will be split, the Court will issue a Financial Order which will make the division of your assets legally binding.

We would encourage applying for a Financial Order even if you and your partner have agreed between yourselves how your assets should be distributed. This is the only way you can separate yourself financially from your ex-spouse and protect against future financial claims.

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Why You Should Consider Getting a Financial Order

Divorce doesn’t deal with your matrimonial finances, but a Financial Order can make your agreement on dividing your assets legally binding.

Financial Orders are there to make the division of assets between yourself and your ex-spouse legally binding, so that both of you have to comply with the financial division of assets you’ve put in place. This helps put a stop to confusion and arguments later down the line as to who is owed what.

You may be worried about having to come to this decision with your ex-spouse. You may not have parted amicably, meaning the idea of getting back in communication – to discuss money, no less – can be a daunting idea, but it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of ways you can agree on how your finances and assets will be split, and you can even get a mediator involved, or you can have your solicitors negotiate for you.

When it comes to agreeing on Financial Orders,  the parties are discouraged from attending Court, as this puts a strain on the system and can be a longer and more stressful process for all parties involved. That’s why there are lots of options to help you and your ex-spouse agree on a Financial Order.

What if my Ex Doesn’t Comply with the Financial Order?

If your ex-partner is refusing to comply with the terms of your Financial Order, our Family Lawyers can help you by enforcing the Court Order in the country where the assets in question are located. Most countries in the EU, Commonwealth and America have agreements in place that uphold British Financial Orders.

In countries where British Financial Orders are not upheld, the enforcement process could become more difficult. In some cases, it might even be necessary to change the British Order into a local one before we can start to enforce it.

In these cases, it’s definitely a good idea to look into getting legal help and advice, so that you can fully understand what’s going on and what your options and rights are.

Our Family and Divorce Lawyers are experienced in this area and can support you throughout the litigation process, liaising with foreign lawyers where necessary to ensure you receive what you’re entitled to according to the Courts.

Get in Touch

For further advice that’s tailored to your situation, get in touch with our expert Family and Divorce Law team today.

We can help clarify the whole process of splitting your finances and assets when you divorce. In addition, we can help you understand what’s going on and what the process is if any of your shared assets are abroad, particularly in areas where British Financial Orders are not upheld, because this is where it could get trickier.

But, we’ll keep you updated on the progress of your case along every step of the way. We understand how stressful divorce can be and how emotionally fraught and difficult it is, which is why we’re here to help take some of the burden off your shoulders.

This side of the law doesn’t have to be confusing and stressful to deal with. In fact, Financial Orders are essential to making sure that everyone gets what they are owed during a fair and logical divorce case. Financial Orders also make sure people can be financially free from their ex-spouse.

So, if you’re getting a divorce and you’ve realised that it might be a good idea to get a Financial Oder – or multiple – in place to fairly split your finances and assets, get in touch with our Family and Divorce Law team.

Related Articles


UK Government. (n.d.). Family Justice: What happens at a Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) hearing? Retrieved from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5b2a4e37e5274a190c1b70c1/d190-eng.pdf

UK Government. (n.d.). Form A: Notice of intention to proceed with an application for a financial order. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/form-a-notice-of-intention-to-proceed-with-an-application-for-a-financial-order

Men's Advice Line. (n.d.). The court process for obtaining a financial order. Retrieved from https://mensadviceline.org.uk/legal-information/the-court-process-for-obtaining-a-financial-order/

Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Lorraine is a Partner at Simpson Millar, specialising in Family Law for over 20 years.

She handles middle to high net value cases, including pension claims and complex trust, and also advises on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Lorraine has unrivalled knowledge of public sector pensions, in particular police pensions, having advised police officers on pension claims for two decades.

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