UK Expat divorce case study – How I help

My client moved to Hong Kong 4 years ago with her husband of 8 years and their 2-year-old child. Prior to the move my client had a successful and promising career of her own, but decided to put her own career on hold following the birth of their child and to follow her husband to Hong Kong as his career took off.

During her time in Hong Kong my client became part of a close-knit community and had many friends enjoying the expat lifestyle of a non-working wife but when her marriage ended she immediately wanted to return to the UK and be “home” with her family.

When a relationship breaks down it is only natural that people want to be comforted by friends and family but for many expats this is not always immediately possible. My client’s husband initially refused to allow her to return to UK with their child and threatened to obtain an order from the courts in Hong Kong to stop her. This left my client who was completely dependent on her husband financially with no option but to stay in Hong Kong where she felt isolated and vulnerable. She told me that “emotional conversations with her family were not the same over Skype”.

My first role was to ensure that she understood all of the options available to her, this included whether she wished to remain in Hong Kong permanently or return to UK, whether to instigate proceedings in Hong Kong or in the UK and further whether or not she could bring her child back. I was able to communicate with lawyers in Hong Kong so as to enable her to have the best advice possible on all of the options. By having a professional network of colleagues around the world I was able to speak directly to a lawyer who I had met and was able to understand the implications for my client in Hong Kong.

At my clients request most of our conversations took place using Skype as she preferred the face to face communication but email was equally useful.

We then needed to open up the lines of communication which had completely deteriorated between her and husband.  I am pleased to say that following a couple of months of negotiation both parties were able to reach an agreement which included:

  1. Where the proceedings were to take place – This was vitally important as with two jurisdictions available to the couple, large sums of money could have been spent upon arguing as to which jurisdiction dealt with the divorce. Quite often there is a significant benefit to one party by issuing in one jurisdiction which can lead to a race to issue at court so proceedings are in the court that most suits your client.
  2. That my client and her child should return to live in the UK. This was massively important to my client who wanted to be back home with her family. The husband agreed that he would consent to my client and the child returning to the UK and arrangements were made for flights etc. My client agreed that she would return to Hong Kong or whichever country her husband was based in on 4 occasions each year which the husband would fund so that contact could take place and he would have contact in the UK when he returned for business purposes.
  3. The release of sufficient funds to initially rent a property in UK and then to purchase a suitable property for her and child to live in.
  4. On-going financial provision for my client and child support, which was sufficient to meet my client’s day to day needs, and with a built-in amount to cover the cost of the four trips and stays for contact.

Using an extensive network of professional colleagues based in the UK, I was then able to ensure that my client had all the support she needed to relocate back to the UK, such as introductions to relocation specialists to get her possessions back, letting agents for her rental and estate agents to identify suitable properties.

Having found a property upon her return, it was also necessary for her to have specialist financial advice with regard to obtaining a small mortgage and I was able to introduce her to a specialist broker who was able to secure a mortgage based upon the maintenance payments that she was receiving, despite the fact she had been out of the UK for the past 4 years and her UK records were not complete.

My colleagues were able to complete the conveyancing work and complete a will for her which included addressing the issue of Guardians in the event of her death.

My client stated afterwards that” despite initially being many thousands of miles away it felt throughout as if I was next door”. I am pleased to say that despite their early breakdown in communication the couple now have an excellent relationship in terms of meeting their child’s needs for maintaining contact for their daughter across the miles.

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