If you have a connection to a different part of the UK to where you currently live, or to another country outside of the UK, you might be able to start your divorce or dissolution proceedings there. Where you start proceedings could affect how your finances are divided.
- Understanding the basics of international divorce or dissolution
- How your divorce or dissolution location can affect your settlement
- Establishing where you can divorce or dissolve your civil partnership
- Deciding what to do next
Understanding the basics of international divorce or dissolution
If you or your ex-partner (husband, wife or civil partner) decides to start divorce or dissolution proceedings outside of the country you currently live in, 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
The ‘first in time’ system means that as long as you have the legal right to get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership in that EU country, and provided that you are the first member of the couple to start proceedings, that’s where they will take place.
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.
But you will have to act quickly because of what’s known as the ‘first in time’ system in the EU.
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 a range of 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 what’s called ‘matrimonial property’, which broadly means assets owned or acquired during the marriage or civil partnership, is taken into account.
In some countries outside the UK, separating couples don’t have to tell each other about their financial assets during divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.
Understanding the legal status of prenuptial agreements
Prenuptial agreements are still relatively uncommon.
They are often used by couples who want to agree – before they marry or become civil partners – how they would divide their:
- Assets, and
Should they decide to separate.
They have an unusual legal status in that they are not fully legally enforceable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
However, courts will generally take them into account as one of the circumstances of the case and will give significant weight to them provided certain safeguards have been met.
- The financial needs of the children are adequately take care of.1
- Both parties had taken legal advice on the implications of entering into the agreement.
In Scotland, they are treated as being legally enforceable.
Establishing where you can 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 a complicated business.
It’s normally a better idea to take advice from a solicitor who specialises in this rather than to try and work it out for yourself.
It could be influenced by where:
- You were born.
- Where 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
You should seek 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.
Do this before negotiating with your ex-partner or before 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.
Pros and cons of taking legal advice
- you will know whether you can get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership outside the country you now live in
- you will know what the consequences of getting divorced or dissolving your civil partnership in another country could be
- you are likely to antagonise your husband, wife or civil 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
In Northern Ireland, you can find a solicitor on the Law Society of Northern Ireland website.
Your next step
This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.
Some important information about Rest Less Money
We want you to understand the positives, but also the limitations of using our site. We operate in a journalistic manner and therefore all information, guidance or suggestions provided are intended to be general in nature, and you should not rely on any of the information on the site in connection with the making of any financial decision.
When we set out to build Rest Less Money, we wanted to be a trusted place where you could find helpful information about financial matters affecting the over 50s. As a free to use resource, we try hard to provide the best information we can, but we cannot guarantee that we won’t occasionally make mistakes. So please note that you use the information on our site at your own risk, and we can’t accept liability if things go wrong.
Key things to remember when using Rest Less Money:
We do not offer financial advice – As a journalistic site, it’s important to know that we do not provide financial advice. You should always do your own research before choosing any financial product so that you can be certain it is right for you and your specific circumstances. If you are in any doubt, please seek professional financial advice from a regulated financial advisor.
No Liability – please note that you use the information on Rest Less Money at your own risk and we can’t accept liability for how you choose to use the information given on our site. We will often provide links to content or products and services available on other third-party websites. These are provided purely for your convenience and we cannot be held responsible for any content, or any of the products and services offered on any website that we link to.
Accuracy of Information – We try to make sure that all the information provided on Rest Less Money is correct at the time of publishing as we want it to be the most helpful resource possible. Sadly, we are not perfect however, and so we can make no guarantees as to the completeness, accuracy, adequacy or suitability of the information available on the site.
Whilst we work hard to try and provide accurate information, deals and prices can change, so whilst they may be correct at the time of writing, providers may subsequently decide to alter them later – so always double check first.
A final note on the Rest Less Community Forums – always remember that anyone can post their opinion on the Rest Less Community Forums, so it can be very different from our own opinion and may not be factual or well researched. Always be wary of any content posted on the forums and be sure to do your own research and due diligence on anything suggested.