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What happens with a cross-border divorce?

View profile for Steven Payne
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Moving abroad is a huge decision, and should not be taken lightly. If one of the reasons you are moving abroad is to join a spouse, it is highly recommended that you get an understanding of the legal implications that moving abroad will have on your marriage, and what the procedures will be if you decide to divorce.

Variations in cross-border divorces

Legitimate reasons to divorce will vary from country to country. If you are marrying someone who originates from a country within the EU, your rights when divorcing will vary depending which country you move to. If you are British citizen, your rights will be changing assuming Britain leaves the EU as planned in a few years time, although what the affects are likely to be is uncertain at present.

Areas in which international divorce vary include rights and obligations of married couples, such as their parental roles, properties you may own together or whether you have taken your partner’s marital name. Whether the marriage was a religious or civil marriage is also an issue that varies from country to country (as some countries will see religious marriage to be equivalent to a civil marriage whereas other’s will not). Same-sex couple divorce rights will also vary, as some same-sex marriages will not be considered legitimate in some countries.

Rules about requesting a cross-border divorce

If you and your partner are both from countries within the EU, either of you can request a legal separation or a divorce in the country where both of you currently live or used to live, in the country where one of you lives (if you have been there at least 6 months) or either spouse’s country of birth.

It is sensible to get legal advice as early as possible in over-seas divorce proceedings. This is especially true in divorces across EU countries, as there can be a “race” to start the divorce proceedings, with couples requesting divorces in different countries.

If you apply for a divorce in more than one country countries, the request will be filed for in the country, which deals with the request first. Whether the divorce proceedings will start depends whether the reasons for divorce are valid grounds for divorce  in the country that receives the request. If not, the process can be moved to another country, so long as it is either one of your countries of origin, or where you live if you have been resident there for longer than 6 months.

Children and over-sea divorce

When children are involved there are often other complications. It may be the case that one parent will wish to move their children overseas. In order to do to this, they will either need written permission from the other parent, or the permission of a Court. This is where legal support is vital in guiding you through the process to ensure your rights and your children’s best interests are protected.

International child abduction

If a parent moves their children over-seas or to another country without permission from the other parent, or from the relevant Court, it may be considered international child abduction. In cases like this you will be eligible to take your partner to court, and you should seek legal advice.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

To help you decide what is right for you and your family we provide a free 30 minute consultation with one of our highly skilled divorce lawyers. For a free initial consultation please telephone on 01245 228106 or email