International Divorce Solicitors
Josiah-Lake Gardiner’s international divorce lawyers regularly advise clients involved in highly complex international jurisdiction and financial matters. Our specialist team of international divorce solicitors can assist with your case in Europe or further afield. We always take time to understand our clients individual requirements and focus on helping them achieve the best possible result. Whatever your situation, you’re in safe hands with our vastly experienced international divorce lawyers.
To book an initial consultation with our expert international divorce solicitors in London, simply call 020 3709 8975 or complete our online enquiry form.
What Josiah-Lake Gardiner Can Advise You On
International divorce/dissolution cases are those where either you or your spouse/civil partner has international connections (whether by birth, working or living in a particular country or as a result of owning or having an interest in assets/property held in a particular country). Unsurprisingly, these cases can be very complicated, as financial settlements and other consequences of divorce/dissolution can differ enormously from country to country. A particular factual situation may produce a very different result if adjudicated outside of the UK and so a lot depends on where the divorce/dissolution takes place.
Our experienced team of family lawyers/divorce and dissolution solicitors will be able to advise you not only on the appropriate forum for the divorce/dissolution, but also on financial settlements and the arrangements for any children of the family (in terms of with whom they will live and the amount of time to be spent with the other parent).
If however the divorce/dissolution has already started in another jurisdiction, we can partner with lawyers there to ensure that you are properly represented and that the court has a complete picture of the worldwide assets, that your financial needs and concerns are taken into account in that jurisdiction and that the deciding court, although not bound to adhere to it or even to give weight to it, is aware of the approach that the Family Court in this jurisdiction would take.
We can also advise you in respect of arrangements for any children who may be required to fly between different countries to spend time with each parent. Also, if required, we can seek freezing injunctions (including worldwide orders) where there is a concern that assets may be placed out of the court’s reach.
Where Should I Start Divorce Or Dissolution Proceedings?
The fact that a marriage or civil partnership took place in a particular country does not mean that the divorce/dissolution also has to take place in that country. Equally, if you were married or registered as civil partners in or have lived most of the time in England, it may be advantageous to one of you to issue proceedings in another country with which there is a connection. Accordingly, if either you or your spouse/civil partner has international connections, we can advise you on choosing the best country in which to file for the divorce or dissolution.
If proceedings are continuing in this jurisdiction and it is apparent that your partner is deliberately hiding assets offshore, we can take relevant action. If required, we can seek freezing injunctions (including worldwide orders) where there is a concern that assets may be placed out of the court’s reach. Such actions would prevent the transfer, sale or disposal of such offshore assets. If court action is needed in the country in which the assets are being held in order to preserve them, we will partner with family lawyers overseas in this regard. The Family Court has various powers available to it when confronted with this situation including ordering the imprisonment of the offending party eg for breach of orders to repatriate the assets transferred offshore to frustrate the other party’s case.
Can I Get Divorced In The UK If I Live Overseas?
It will be possible for you to bring proceedings for divorce or dissolution in this jurisdiction if you satisfy the habitual residence or domicile requirements set out in either of Article 3(1) of Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of November 2003 [married opposite sex couples], the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) (Jurisdiction and Recognition of Judgments) Regulations 2004 [married same sex couples] and the Civil Partnership (Jurisdiction and Recognition of Judgments) Regulations 2005 ]civil partners].
Your ‘habitual residence’ is essentially where you live – the place in which your life is mainly based. You must be settled there and intend to remain settled there. Your ‘domicile’ is something different altogether. It describes the country that you consider to be your home or the country where you have your permanent home. It is acquired at birth but can be changed consciously eg by moving permanently to another country and renouncing your domicile at birth (as you can only have one domicile at a time).
If you were born overseas, but are now living in this jurisdiction, when deciding whether you have indeed acquired a domicile of choice in England and Wales, you need to establish an intention to make your home in England and Wales permanently or indefinitely. Brexit will inevitably affect how/in what circumstances proceedings involving a European connection can be commenced in this jurisdiction. Thus far, the proposed ‘fix’ does not do that. In the main Brexit statutory instrument (The Jurisdiction and Judgements (Family) (Amendments etc) (EU exit) Regulations 2019), the government has elevated sole domicile to a primary ground of jurisdiction but it seems that in making the relevant changes to our domestic legislation in this way, sole domicile remains a residual rather than primary ground of jurisdiction for same-sex divorce and civil partnership dissolution. Thus, only opposite-sex married couples can rely on the sole domicile ground as the basis of jurisdiction for divorce, but if you are in a same-sex marriage or civil partnership, you will not be able to rely on the sole domicile ground after we leave the EU (if indeed we ultimately do until this issue is remedied.
How Can I Divorce My Spouse Or Dissolve My Civil Partnership Overseas?
You will have to have a sufficient connection to that other country, entitling you to bring proceedings there. Specialist advice in this regard may be needed and our solicitors will be able to make contact with family lawyers in the relevant jurisdiction to consider whether you can do so and if so whether it would be beneficial for you to do so.
Do I Need To Travel To The Uk For The Divorce/dissolution?
You may not need to travel to the UK for the purpose of dissolving your marriage or civil partnership, but should you wish the court to make orders in respect of financial matters or the arrangements for the children (or to be heard in respect of these issues), you may well be required to travel to the UK to attend court.
What Happens To Our Assets?
These will be usually be dealt with in the country in which the proceedings for divorce/dissolution were brought, although it is possible to apply for financial remedies in this jurisdiction even after a foreign decree of divorce (or dissolution). Where matters are proceeding in this jurisdiction, if you and your spouse/civil partner are unable to reach a financial settlement out of court, one or other of you may need to make an application (on Form A) to the Family Court and in that way commence financial remedy proceedings here, with the aim of either agreeing or having the court impose a final order/binding financial settlement.
Both of you are required to provide full financial disclosure with supporting documentary evidence and can (subject to the approval of the court) be made to provide additional information and documentation to ensure clarity of their respective financial positions. After an initial fact-finding/information gathering hearing (the First Directions Appointment), there is an opportunity for you to reach agreement at court with the assistance of the judge (the Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment/Settlement Hearing) before a final hearing is scheduled and an order made by the judge after hearing evidence and submissions.
The courts are able to make the following orders:
1. Periodical payments (otherwise known as maintenance) for a spouse/civil partner and any child or children of the family;
2. A lump sum order (a cash payment);
3. A property adjustment order including the sale or transfer of any property (eg the transfer of the family home from one spouse/civil partner to the other or from their joint names to one of them); and
4. A pension sharing order (effectively splitting any pension assets between the spouses/civil partners).
The judge dealing with the matter has the final decision on how the assets are divided. The court strives to decide what the fairest way to divide the assets is but arrangements regarding the children (in terms of their housing) have the highest priority. The way in which a family’s assets are divided on divorce is complex and a whole range of factors are taken into account as follows:
(a) The income, earning capacity (including any increase in such capacity which it would in the opinion of the court be reasonable to expect a spouse/civil partner to take steps to acquire), property and other financial resources which each spouse/civil partner has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
(b) The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each spouse/civil partner has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
(c) The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage/civil partnership;
(d) The age of each spouse/civil partner and the duration of the marriage/civil partnership (including relevant seamless pre-marriage/registration cohabitation);
(e) Any physical or mental disability of either of the spouses/civil partners;
(f) The contributions which each spouse/civil partner has made or is likely to make in the foreseeable future to the welfare of the family including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family;
(g) The conduct of each spouse/civil partner if in the opinion of the court it would be inequitable to disregard such (note though that this does not mean behaviour such as adultery and would need to be of a financial nature);
(h) The value of any benefit (including pension benefits) which the spouse/civil partner will lose the chance to acquiring by reason of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage or civil partnership.
International Divorce And Arrangements For Children
When a relationship breaks down, the key issues to be decided in connection with the children are with whom they will primarily live and how much time (if any) they will spend with the other parent. If either parent of the child is living overseas (or indeed if the child is at boarding school overseas), we at Josiah-Lake Gardiner can advise you in respect of the appropriate arrangements for the child who may be required to fly between different countries to spend time with each parent, but mindful always that the Family Court in this jurisdiction may not be able to determine such issues. If that were to be the case, we could work with family lawyers in the appropriate jurisdiction about such arrangements to assist you.
In this jurisdiction, a child arrangements order (made pursuant to section 8 of the Children Act 1989) means an order directing with whom a child is to live (a child arrangements ‘lives with’ order) and with whom a child is to spend time or otherwise have contact (a child arrangements ‘spends time with’ order). Thus, whilst a ‘lives with’ order confirms with whom a child is to live, a ‘spends time with’ order deals with whom the child is to see or otherwise have contact. Such order could be either direct (face to face contact whether on a visiting or staying/overnight basis) or indirect (by letter, telephone, email, text, Skype, FaceTime etc).
In the vast majority of cases, the arrangements for the children can be agreed without any involvement of solicitors, but, where parents cannot agree with whom the children should live, they may need advice and assistance from specialist family lawyers, such as our team at Josiah-Lake Gardiner.
How Much Does An International Divorce or Dissolution cost?
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to this question. The legal costs depend on the length of time it takes to conclude the divorce or dissolution itself and to reach agreement both in respect of the arrangements for any children and the division of property/assets.
However, at Josiah-Lake Gardiner we pride ourselves on offering very competitive rates and in respect of the divorce decree or dissolution order itself (and therefore excluding the arrangements for the children and the financial issues) the costs could start from as little as £1,000 plus vat plus the court fee of £550, if the proceedings are commenced by agreement in this jurisdiction and they are undefended.
With regard to the costs involved in respect of other issues, a lot will depend on the issue for which you are seeking advice (including sale of the family home/division of property and other assets, whether held in this jurisdiction or overseas, arrangements for and financial provision in respect of any children), the length of time it takes to conclude matters, whether an out of court agreement is possible, the involvement of family lawyers in other jurisdictions, the stance taken by your spouse/civil partner and what you ultimately want to achieve. Broadly, an out of court settlement could cost between £5,000 and £7,500 plus vat. A more complex matter could cost up to and sometimes more than £15,000 plus vat. At an initial meeting, we would be able to give a more definitive idea of likely costs as we do understand that it is important that you know from the outset what your legal fees are likely to amount to.
For this reason, we provide our clients with a bespoke costs plan and time estimate at the outset of a case (for which there is no charge) with regular updates as needed.
How Long Does An International Divorce Case Take?
If dealing only with a divorce or dissolution, it takes between 5 and 8 months from the date of the filing of the petition to the date of the decree absolute or dissolution order. However, the length of time will always depend upon your particular circumstances.
Generally, the divorce or dissolution would not be finalised until the other matters are resolved and it could take 12 months or so from the date of filing of a court application in relation to financial matters for a final award to be made. As regards the timings of overseas proceedings, we would seek guidance in this regard from specialist expert family lawyers in those jurisdictions.
Regions Our Team Covers
We are able to deal with any case with an international aspect, whether Europe or further afield and can issue proceedings in this country so long as the Family Court has jurisdiction to deal with the matter. David Josiah-Lake is also a member of the New York (US) State Bar.
What You Can Expect From Josiah-Lake Gardiner
We, at Josiah-Lake Gardiner, will guide you through the process of your international divorce/dissolution, explaining the procedure and possible outcomes. Our experienced team of solicitors will always endeavour to minimise the emotional distress of divorce/dissolution on all members of the family, with particular emphasis on assisting clients to minimise as much as it is possible to do the emotional impact on any children of the family. We will fully explain the procedure at the outset of the case and will keep you updated at every stage.