Divorce across international borders

In our diverse and multicultural society, modern-day families are becoming increasingly international. And when a relationship does cross national borders, so can divorce or separation – bringing with it a specific set of challenges to overcome.

Whether taking frequent holidays abroad, owning second homes in other countries or relocating for work and sunnier climates, life outside of the UK is more accessible than ever before. Working as a family lawyer in Bristol, I have seen a growth in the number of families facing multiple international issues when separating or divorcing. These can be legally, financially and geographically very complex.

Questions you may have

Any divorce or separation is difficult – and one that spans different countries can seem even more so. This is why it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. At Sharp Family Law, we’ve helped many couples work through the questions that arise from untangling an international relationship. These can include:

  • If I move overseas, where will the children live – and how will child maintenance be arranged?
  • Does it matter if we divorce in another country or should we start the process in England?
  • We were married abroad and the marriage certificate is in another language – will that cause a delay?
  • If we’ve already divorced abroad but are yet to sort out the financial arrangements, can this be dealt with in England?
  • What happens to our second home – can one of us keep it?
  • I think there might be bank accounts in other countries but I can’t be certain – how can I find out?

Finding the right outcome for you

To start overcoming these challenges, you should think about whether you’re still communicating with one another effectively and have sufficient mutual trust to be honest and open. If you can cooperate, then it’s more than likely that these issues can be dealt with between you with guidance from lawyers, in mediation or in meetings with you and your lawyers together. If there are geographical difficulties, then matters can be addressed via email, Skype and post.

If communications have broken down between you, or the trust is gone, you still have plenty of options. If you fear you will be significantly disadvantaged if you don’t take immediate action, then your lawyer may recommend you make a court application. This will protect your interests while you seek answers to your questions. If your concerns can be addressed without the need for court attendance, then legally binding agreements can still be made by consent.

International borders are no longer a barrier to exploring new countries and cultures. Nor should they act as a barrier to separating families seeking to resolve their different situations. What is vital, almost always, is that you ask questions and seek information immediately to ensure that matters can be dealt with in the most favourable way for your family.

Article by Clare Webb

Clare is committed to helping her clients find constructive, rather than destructive, ways of resolving their issues. In doing so, she listens to the specific challenges facing the family and by focusing on long-term solutions, she helps her clients consider and decide on the most appropriate way of addressing those challenges.