The world has become a very small place and it is very common for people of one nationality to find themselves living for a period of time in another country; you may be British and living abroad for a time (or recently returned from living abroad), or a foreign national living in England and Wales.
The question of where the divorce takes place, and consequently which laws govern the financial claims upon divorce, can be critical and make a very significant difference to the outcome.
In international cases there is often a choice of jurisdiction available and it is extremely important that specialist advice is taken in each jurisdiction to enable the right decision to be made as quickly as possible. We have significant international expertise. We are members of the International Academy of Family Lawyers and accordingly have a strong network of contacts across the world so that we can take specialist and urgent advice in almost any jurisdiction. We also have offices in Geneva and Bahrain and lawyers in England who can advise and run cases in certain foreign languages.
Where there are potentially two or more countries which could deal with the divorce, the decision as to where the case will proceed will depend upon the identity of the competing countries.
EU member states (excluding Denmark)
Where there is the possibility of divorcing in England or another EU member state, there is a strict 'first in time' rule so that if proceedings are issued in one member state, the other member state will be 'frozen out' of dealing with the case.
The rest of the world
Where the competing jurisdictions are England and Wales and another country which is not an EU member state (excluding Denmark), different rules will apply to assess which is the most appropriate country in which the proceedings might be conducted. The court will look at various factors to decide where the case should proceed but the speed of issuing proceedings can be an important factor.
'Related jurisdictions' ie Scotland, Northern Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man
Particular rules govern competing claims in these related jurisdictions so that, in certain circumstances depending upon where the parties lived, the court must halt the proceedings in one court so that the case can continue in the other country’s court.
We are sensitive to the competing tensions between taking the right step at the right time emotionally and taking the right step at the right time procedurally. The most important thing is to take early advice both in England and in any other potentially relevant jurisdiction. That is something we are perfectly placed to do with our strong international connections and specialist experience.