Bridge over troubled waters.

If you think your marriage is failing, contact your lawyer now as it can make a huge difference to your settlement.

When a relationship fails or begins to fail, married expats can find themselves in a very difficult position. Where they divorce and how much they will have to pay or receive by way of divorce settlement can be determined by where they issue. Getting this right is crucial particularly for expat wives.

Generally the expat wife will have fewer assets than her husband particularly if it was his employment that took the family abroad. It is therefore generally considered advisable for expat wives to retain a base in the UK to enable a petition to be issued in England and Wales. The English law has been recognised in the media as the wives jurisdiction. This is because in England and Wales spousal maintenance is open-ended meaning it can be paid until the payer dies or their financial circumstances change.

Most EU states require the recipient to demonstrate why ongoing maintenance is required over and above child support and in Europe the courts expect the spouse to get back on their feet and independent as quickly as possible.

In the EU, the Brussels II convention brought together the rules regulating divorce jurisdiction across all EU member countries except Denmark.  This states that wherever divorce proceedings are issued first that is where the divorce takes place.

Therefore expats living abroad may fulfil residence criteria in more than one jurisdiction but by virtue of their domicile they may be able to issue in England and Wales.

The divorce situation is different in the US and other non EU countries which considers the circumstances of the case and requires a hearing to determine the appropriate jurisdiction which is costly for both parties but can be a price worth paying for some spouses where their assets may be better protected by that jurisdiction, Eg a spouse may issue in the US or other EU state where pre-nuptial agreements can be binding but in England and Wales are only evidence that the Judge will consider.

As an experienced lawyer it is necessary to ensure that the client who is often upset and emotional acts decisively to ensure that if the jurisdiction may be in issue that they get in first and secure the position that best protects them.

The courts of England and Wales will insist upon full disclosure being provided so that you can be sure of all the facts and figures before trying to negotiate a settlement, however in Italy or Spain the requirement is not so stringent.

Acting for UK expats seeking advice from Hong Kong, Oman, USA and Europe has enabled me to become experienced in understanding the needs of the expat client and being able to act both quickly and appropriately to enable the right choices to be made at the outset.

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