How Does Divorce Work if One Person Doesn’t Live in the UK?

11 September 2018

If one person in a marriage or civil partnership does not live in the UK, then it may still be possible to obtain a divorce (or civil partnership dissolution) in the UK. This will be subject to the couple meeting one of the specified conditions of divorce, which we explain below.

Where You Both Live

Firstly it's necessary to establish where each person is 'habitually resident' and where they are 'domiciled.'

To be considered as habitually resident, your life would need to be mainly based in that country, and this may include working, purchasing property, and sending your children to school in that country.

To be considered as domiciled in a country, this would need to be your main, permanent home. You would normally inherit your mother's domicile if you parents are not married, or your father's if your parents are married.

Neither Resident nor Domiciled in the UK?

If one person is neither habitually resident or domiciled in the UK, then this is where matters become more complicated. However, it may still be possible for you to obtain a divorce in the UK, providing at least one of the following conditions are met:

  1. As a couple you were last habitually resident in England or Wales, and either you or your spouse still reside in England or Wales.
  2. Your spouse is habitually resident in England or Wales (if you are living abroad).
  3. You are habitually resident in England and Wales (if your spouse is living abroad) and you have resided in England and Wales for at least a year prior to requesting a divorce.
  4. You are domiciled and habitually resident in England and Wales (if your spouse is living abroad) and you have resided in England and Wales for at least 6 months immediately prior to requesting a divorce.
  5. (In the case of marriage only) you and your spouse are both domiciled in England and Wales (if one or both of you are living abroad).

Could We Get Divorced Outside of the UK?

It is important to consider the potential impact of filing for your divorce in a country outside of the UK. There may be certain requirements, or implications, if you were to resolve your matrimonial finances in a different country to the one in which you live or where you were married.

Bear in mind that different countries have different divorce laws, so you'll want to ensure that you choose the option that best suits your needs. In some international divorce cases, British couples living abroad have been prevented from applying for a divorce in the country that they have moved to.

Our International Divorce Solicitors are highly experienced in dealing with cross-border and international divorces. If you or your spouse are living abroad and you are unsure of your divorce options, speak to a member of our team for initial advice.

Severing Financial Ties

The final consideration you will need to make is whether or not a divorce in another country would effectively deal with the matrimonial finances. A divorce in any country will only sever the marital ties which exist between you and your spouse, and not the financial ties which exist between you both.

In order to end all financial commitments to each other, you will need to obtain a Financial Order from the Court, in the form of a Clean Break Order.

If you file for divorce in another country which is not England or Wales, then you will need specific permission from the UK Court if you then wish to address and sever the financial relationship which exists between you. If you don't take this final step, then you will still be financially tied to one another, meaning that one person could be entitled to make a financial claim against the other in the future.

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