International issues

International divorce & jurisdiction

Prenuptial and Cohabitation Agreements

International children disputes

Specialist Anglo-French family law service

International divorce & jurisdiction  

We frequently advise on the best jurisdiction in which to bring divorce proceedings.

Married couples who between them have a residence, domicile and/or nationality involving more than one European country often have a choice as to where they divorce – what lawyers call a choice of jurisdiction or forum.

The rules say that the first of the couple to issue divorce proceedings in one jurisdiction will seize it to the exclusion of the other one. The second jurisdiction where proceedings are issued has to stop its court proceedings, even if the parties have a valid connection there.

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The different laws between countries means that English courts can potentially treat assets, income and pension in very different ways from another country. The “first to issue rule”* can mean a dramatically different divorce settlement.

You should therefore always seek early advice as to whether there is a choice of jurisdictions in your case, and which one is more/ less favourable to you. You may be also advised to consider other factors such as ease of enforcing the court order, and legal costs in the potential jurisdictions.

If one of the parties has a connection with England and the other with a country outside Europe (such as nationality, residence or domicile) then the “first to issue” rule will not apply so strictly. The English court when faced with a competing claim for jurisdiction between England and a non-EU jurisdiction looks at other factors, not just who issued first. Factors include the connection of the parties with the non-EU jurisdiction, and the different results likely in both jurisdictions.

(*the strict first to issue rule does not apply to cases involving Denmark, and rules may change after the UK leaves the European Union)

Pre-nuptial agreements (and marriage regimes), in an international context 

The law of England and Wales is very different from the law of civil law countries (including French law) in this area.  Even in those countries with a similar legal system, the outcome can also be very different.  We frequently provide advice on the interaction between these different laws, for couples of different nationalities, couples who are internationally mobile, and those who have assets in different jurisdictions. We also advise in situations where couples have very different cultural expectations about what agreement, if any, to sign on marriage.

Pre-nuptial agreements  are growing in importance for marriages taking place in England. Pre-nuptial agreements, or foreign matrimonial regimes wherever drafted in the world, are not 100% binding on an English court, but they are now heavily influential on the discretion and powers of the English court provided they have been properly drafted and provided there has been legal advice offered on both sides.

Marital regimes exist in civil law system countries (like France) for division of property, and a regime applies by default or the couple can choose a specific regime to apply to their assets.

In England a failure to do a prenuptial agreement will mean, in default, the couple are subject to the wide powers of discretion over assets of the English judge on divorce.

International Children Disputes  

We are experienced in acting in wide range of cases relating to parental responsibility, often with complex elements.

In children disputes, whether or not the parents are married, the residence of the child at the time proceedings are issued will in most cases be the place where proceedings must occur.

We have dealt with many child relocation cases where one member of the couple wishes to return with their children to their country of origin and one parent wishes to stay in England.

We frequently deal with cases involving financial payments for children of unmarried couples, and the cross-border issues arising out of those situations.

We are also experienced in dealing with a wide range of other parental responsibility issues including, for example, international agreements for continuing contact arrangements, and international paternity disputes between separated couples.

Specialist Anglo-French family law service

We offer a specialist Anglo-French family law service, for clients with family issues that involve Anglo-French aspects. Click here for more information.