Can I get Divorced in the UK if I Married Abroad?

Couples may marry abroad for a variety of different reasons. Either they are residents of the UK and choose to marry in a ceremony abroad or they were residents of another country at the time of marriage but now live in the UK.

Either way, people can still seek to get divorced in the UK regardless of where their marriage took place in certain circumstances.

If I get married in a different country, will my marriage still be recognised in England?

Usually the answer to this question will be yes. For a foreign marriage to be valid in the UK however, it must have taken place in accordance with the local custom and law of the country where the marriage took place. In other words, it needs to be legal in that country.

Can I divorce in England if I married abroad?

You can still obtain a divorce in England providing that certain criteria regarding domicile or habitual residence are satisfied.

English courts have jurisdiction to hear a divorce petition if either of the following applies:

1)   If it has jurisdiction under the European Union regulation known as Article 3 of Brussels II

Under Article 3 of Brussels II the English court has jurisdiction if, for the day that the petition is issued, any of the following applies:

  1. Both you and your spouse are habitually resident in England and Wales.
  2. Both you and your spouse were last habitually resident in England and Wales and one of you still reside there.
  3. Your spouse is habitually resident in England and Wales.
  4. You are habitually resident in England and Wales and has resided here for a year.
  5. You are habitually resident in England and Wales and has resided here for 6 months and are domiciled in England and Wales.
  6. Both you and your spouse are domiciled in England and Wales.

2)   Alternatively, if no EU state (with the exception strangely of Denmark) has jurisdiction under Brussels II on the sole domicile of one party.

Broadly speaking, this would usually mean that if both you and your spouse are living outside Europe and one of you are domiciled in England and Wales you can still issue a Divorce Petition in England.

Domicile and habitual residence are complex legal concepts and it is correct to say that many cases do depend entirely upon their own individual set of facts. 

Are there advantages if I choose to divorce abroad?

It can be more advantageous financially if you divorce in another country. England has been dubbed the “divorce capital of Europe” because of the wide ranging discretionary powers that the English court has and it is well known that the English courts can be very generous to wives who are pursuing financial claims.

If you are someone who is faced with a situation where you are able to divorce in more than one country, you need specialist legal advice. Even if you are able to divorce in England therefore you do need to consider the other implications which might be involved in starting the divorce proceedings in England.  

For further information about divorce why not contact one of Alexander JLO’s leading lawyers in the field.

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