Can I Divorce in England and Wales if I Got Married Overseas?

Author:
Paul Hicks
Family Law and Divorce Solicitor
Date:
17/09/2019

In most cases, you can but in a few cases, you can’t. It’s all down to legal requirements and jurisdiction. You must meet certain criteria to divorce in England or Wales.

Jurisdiction in Divorce Proceedings

Divorce Courts in England and Wales can only deal with divorce proceedings if one or more of these criteria apply:

These criteria fall under the European Union regulation, Article 3 of Brussels II.

  • Both persons are habitually resident in England or Wales
  • Both persons were last habitually resident in England or Wales and one still lives there
  • The person applying for divorce, known as the Petitioner, is habitually resident in England or Wales and has lived there for at least one year immediately before applying for a divorce
  • The Petitioner is domiciled and habitually resident in England or Wales and has been residing in England or Wales for at least six months immediately before applying for a divorce
  • Both persons are domiciled in England or Wales.

What does Habitually Resident and Domicile mean?

Habitually Resident

Habitually resident refers to where you live and where your life is based. So, this means where your property is situated, and where your children go to school. To be habitually resident, you have to have an intent to remain settled there.

For example, if your spouse got a job abroad and you both moved there, you’d be habitually resident there.

Domicile

This refers to where your main, permanent home is. This is usually the country that a person regards as their home country. Sometimes people have close family ties in one country, but actually, live in another.

An example of this could be a person from the Republic of Ireland living in England, which is quite common. That person’s “domicile of origin” would be the Republic of Ireland, due to their father living there at the time they were born. But, they have acquired England as a “domicile of choice” because they live in England.

Some Common Scenarios

  • If you and your spouse got married overseas but set up your main life in England or Wales, for example, your children attend school in England or Wales and you own property there; then both of you would likely be habitually resident and you can get divorced in England or Wales.

  • If you and your spouse got married abroad but set up your main life in England or Wales (i.e. became habitually resident, there) but subsequently one of you moves abroad and one remained in England or Wales then you can get divorced in England or Wales.

You may not be in a good position to divorce in England or Wales if you got married abroad and you both remain living overseas. You both may have lost your domicile of origin (acquired at birth) and acquired a domicile of choice in another country.  

Due to the many complexities surrounding international divorce law, and whether you’re eligible to get divorced in England and Wales, we recommend that you talk to one of our specialist Divorce Solicitors and get advice on jurisdiction for your divorce.

For initial advice call our Family Law & Divorce Solicitors

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