Can I Get a Divorce in England If I Was Married Abroad?

28 November 2016

This is never an easy question to answer, even for the English Courts.

Potential problems can arise when couples choose to get married in romantic yet remote locations in countries across the world. The wedding ceremony may be carried out under very localised rites or laws or according to the custom in the particular region.

To start divorce proceedings in England or Wales the applicant for the divorce may be asked to prove there was a valid marriage.

There are many questions the Court may have to ask which include whether the marriage complies with the law and requirements for marriage in the foreign country - an English Court can only apply English law. This may also depend upon which country the couple treat as being their permanent home.

In addition the Court will focus on both the facts of the case and the behaviour of the parties to decide if the marriage was lawful.

The person seeking the divorce will have to produce copies of any formal papers including the marriage certificate, and a translation if this is not in English. They may also be asked to provide photographs, video recordings, and statements from witnesses and other members of the wedding party to show that a form of marriage took place.

A lawful marriage in other countries may include one or more religious rituals as well as a civil ceremony and the couples’ participation in each stage is required and may need to be proved. It can be difficult to get formal copies of any lost documents, from the foreign country.

A well-known case was in 1999 when Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger's marriage to model Jerry Hall was shown not to be a lawful marriage after Jerry Hall started divorce proceedings in London. The Judge ruled that their "marriage" in Bali in 1990 was not valid either in Indonesia or under English law.

Even where there is no marriage, a decree declaring it to be legally void can be sought to remove any doubt as to the status of the marriage and this gives the English Courts power to nevertheless make financial orders where appropriate.

When married couples living abroad decide to get a divorce, it can be difficult to decide which country to begin the divorce proceedings in. Different countries have different divorce laws, so choosing the best jurisdiction for your divorce is a very important decision that our International Divorce Solicitors can help you with.

More articles