A guide to international divorce or dissolution

Do you have a connection to a different part of the UK to where you currently live, or to another country? If so, you might be able to start your divorce or dissolution proceedings there. Where you start proceedings might affect how you divide your finances.

Understanding the basics of international divorce or dissolution

Have you or your ex-partner (husband, wife or civil partner) decided to start divorce or dissolution proceedings outside the country you live in? If so, what you do next will depend on whether they start:

  • in another nation within the UK
  • elsewhere in the European Union (EU), or
  • in a non-EU country.

Divorcing or dissolving your civil partnership in other parts of the UK

The system for divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership in England and Wales is slightly different to the one in Northern Ireland, and quite different to the Scottish system.

If you start proceedings in another part of the UK to where you currently live, you’ll have to consider how this might affect your financial settlement.

Divorcing or dissolving your civil partnership in the EU

Under EU law, you might have the right to get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership in a different EU country to the one where you married or registered your civil partnership.

Divorcing or dissolving your civil partnership in a non-EU country

If you or your ex-partner has a connection with a non-EU country – then where you’re able to divorce or dissolve your civil partnership will depend on various factors.

The main one will be which country has the closest connection with you both.

How your divorce or dissolution location can affect your settlement

The law in some countries means that financial assets are divided very differently to the way they’re split in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, only ‘matrimonial property’ is taken into account. This means assets owned or acquired during the marriage or civil partnership.

In some countries outside the UK, couples don’t have to tell each other about their financial assets during divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.

Prenuptial agreements are still relatively rare.

Couples use them to agree – before they marry or become civil partners – how they would divide their money, assets and property if they were to separate.

Prenuptial agreements aren’t fully legally enforceable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But courts will generally take them into account as one of the circumstances of the case. And they’ll give them significant weight if the agreement meets certain safeguards. For example:

  • the financial needs of the children are adequately taken care of
  • both parties had taken legal advice on the implications of entering into the agreement.

In Scotland, prenuptial agreements legally enforceable.

Where can you divorce or dissolve your civil partnership?

Working out whether you have the legal right to start a divorce or dissolution in a particular country can be complicated.

It’s usually a better idea to get advice from a solicitor who specialises in this, rather than to try and work it out for yourself.

It could be influenced by the country:

  • you were born
  • you own property
  • your mother or father was born or lived
  • you married or registered your civil partnership
  • you live now and during your marriage or civil partnership.

Deciding what to do next

It’s best to get legal advice from specialist family law solicitors. They should know the laws in the country where you live and the country where your divorce or dissolution proceedings could start.

It’s worth doing this before negotiating with your ex-partner or exploring mediation with them. This is because the risk of losing control of where you decide to start proceedings can have serious implications.

But be aware that this will make it much harder to reach an amicable agreement with your ex-partner.

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Pros
    • You’ll know whether you can get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership outside the country you now live in.
    • You’ll know what the consequences of getting divorced or dissolving your civil partnership in another country could be.
Cons
    • You’re likely to upset your ex-partner by starting divorce or dissolution proceedings without giving them any warning.
    • It could be much harder to reach a financial settlement as a result.
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Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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