Lead Forensics
Prettys Solicitors Ipswich

Family law

Foreign Marriages and Divorce

If you married in a foreign country, arranging a UK divorce may be complicated and you will need advice from a divorce lawyer. Prettys has worked with many people in the Ipswich and Chelmsford areas and elsewhere in the UK who find themselves in this situation. Here we look at some of the main issues involved. 

I married abroad but want to divorce here.  Can I?

There are residence criteria for who can divorce in England and Wales, which are too complicated to repeat here.  Broadly, however, marrying abroad in itself does not prevent you divorcing in England and Wales provided the marriage was legally valid in the country in which you married and provided England or Wales has been your home for at least a year.

Should I divorce in England and Wales?

Over the last few years there has been an increase in what is known as “forum shopping” amongst divorcing couples.  This is where each spouse tries to secure the most favourable country in which to pursue divorce proceedings, with many considering that England and Wales’ matrimonial jurisdiction to be generous.  Normally, the jurisdiction secured first in time is where the divorce proceedings are progressed, provided either spouse can meet the legal requirements to start proceedings in that country.  This means that one spouse can file a petition first, securing what is perceived to be a favourable jurisdiction for themselves, but which may be considered less favourable to their spouse.

How do I know which country is right for me?

You need to make urgent enquiries from a divorce lawyer in the relevant countries.  Whilst we liaise with foreign solicitors in cases with an international aspect, we cannot provide advice regarding the legal jurisdictions of other countries and so you will need to seek that advice and consider which jurisdiction you prefer.  Time is often of the essence in matters such as this and so you should not hesitate if you believe your spouse is keen to start divorce proceedings.  Trying to transfer to another jurisdiction after a petition has been filed can be expensive and difficult.

I divorced abroad; can I make financial claims in England?

Potentially, yes. If you can prove, amongst other things, that you are resident in England and that your divorce was legally valid abroad, then you may bring a claim.  It matters less where the marital assets are located but clearly a case with the majority of assets in England is easier to resolve in the English courts.  Enforcing English Orders for assets abroad can be legally complex and costly. 

What financial claims can I make?

The same financial claims as if you had married in England.  The main difference is that you need the court’s permission to make your application for finances, and the financial proceedings are pursued in the High Court, not the County Court, and so could be more expensive.

What should I do next?

To speak to our family and divorce lawyers, contact the Family Team in Prettys offices on 01473 232121, ask for a call back here or send us an e-mail here.


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