Can I get a Divorce in England and Wales?

Cara Nuttall
Author:
Cara Nuttall
Partner and Family Law Solicitor
Date:
21/10/2021

If you are a couple or family with international connections, there may be a question over which country or countries you are entitled to get divorced in, and which is the most appropriate.

Given how much the law on dividing assets on divorce can vary between countries, looking carefully at where you can and should divorce can be extremely important.

In England and Wales, to start a divorce you must show at least one the following:

  1. Both people in the marriage or civil partnership are habitually resident in England and Wales
  2. Both people in the marriage or civil partnership were last habitually resident in England and Wales and one of them continues to reside there
  3. The respondent is habitually resident in England and Wales
  4. The petitioner is habitually resident in England and Wales and has resided there for at least one year immediately before the application was made
  5. The applicant is domiciled and habitually resident in England and Wales and has resided there for at least six months immediately before the application was made 
  6. Both people in the marriage or civil partnership are domiciled in England and Wales
  7. The applicant or the respondent is domiciled in England and Wales

Learn more about habitual residence and domicile in divorce.

If you don’t meet any of these criteria, there is a final provision that the petitioner and respondent registered as civil partners of each other in England and Wales. Or if you are a same sex couple who married each other under the law of England and Wales and it would be in the interests of justice for the Court to assume jurisdiction in this case.

It’s important to make sure the right grounds are used, as if the Court does not have jurisdiction, the divorce can’t continue. Contested jurisdiction proceedings can be expensive and lead to significant delay.

Can I Get Divorced in Another Country?

Each country has different rules on who is entitled to apply for a divorce and financial settlement.  Common factors can include:

  • Nationality
  • Habitual residence
  • How long you have been living in the country
  • Whether you have both been living there, or only one of you has
  • Where you were born and what ‘domicile’ you have

If you qualify for a divorce in more than one country, it’s important to think about which is the best one for you.  There are many factors you should consider and that the Court would look at if there were a dispute about where your divorce should take place. Ask yourself:

  • How are the laws different and how would they apply to you – what would be the likely outcome in each country and is there one that looks better for you?
  • What is the process, how long would it take and would you be able to participate as you need to?
  • How much might it cost?
  • Which country do you have the closest connection to?
  • Where are the assets based?
  • Where are the witnesses based if you need any?

Making a Decision about International Divorce

It is always important to get advice in both countries, so you can make an informed decision, as it can make a huge difference to the outcome and the process of getting there.

If you have divorced abroad, in some limited circumstances you may be able to apply to the Courts here in England and Wales for a financial settlement, but the basis for doing so is much more limited.  Often, what you can ask the Court to order will also be more limited. 

This is even more reason it’s so important to start the divorce and financial proceedings in the right country to begin with.

If you have an international background and you’re contemplating a separation or divorce, it is always worth undertaking detailed research so you can consider all of your options in plenty of time to make sure your final decision is right for you and your family. 

A specialist Divorce Solicitor can help explain how the law might apply in your case, and the pros and cons as they apply to your circumstances, as well as avoiding costly disputes about jurisdiction further down the line.

Get in touch for legal advice tailored to you.

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