Families with international connections face complex questions

PUBLISHED: 12:52 27 June 2017 | UPDATED: 12:52 27 June 2017


England has an increasingly international and mobile society and Surrey reflects this national trend.

Many people from other countries find themselves living and working here either temporarily or on a permanent basis or have settled in England following their marriage. Surrey is a lovely place to live and bring up a family but where one or other of the parents has links to another country this can bring particular legal challenges for that family if the marriage breaks down, both in relation to financial outcomes and issues relating to children.

Every country has different divorce laws and different ways of dealing with financial matters on divorce. Some countries can be more favourable to one spouse than the other and this can have a huge impact on the financial outcome for the parties. England has a reputation for being one of the most generous countries for a weaker party to divorce in. As the main breadwinner or the wealthier of the two you might find it to your financial advantage to bring divorce proceedings in another country if this is an option open to you. Conversely, if you are a non-working wife you may do well to divorce in England.

In these circumstances it is essential that specialist legal advice is obtained from the outset and before alerting your husband or wife to the possibility of there being divorce proceedings, to establish where you are likely to get the best result, as in some circumstances it can be essential to get in first with your divorce petition in order to claim the jurisdiction of the English courts (if you have been advised that England is the best country for you). Different countries treat the capital claims in different ways: if one of you has inherited capital, for example, the extent to which this is treated as part of the family financial pot and taken into consideration on divorce varies from country to country.

Different countries have very different attitudes to maintenance claims too. For example, in France maintenance is only awarded in extreme circumstances and even when it is, it is not at a very generous level. In England, by contrast, maintenance is commonly awarded and it can, in certain circumstances, be awarded for life.

Following a marriage break down it is common for one of the parties to wish to return to their home country with the children. This is not straightforward: if the other parent will not consent, then the parent and children cannot leave England without first obtaining an order of the court. These cases can take many months to resolve and need very careful planning, to be very clearly evidenced and researched and sensitively dealt with. Once again advice from a solicitor specialising in this area is essential.

International family law is a complex and specialist area. Penningtons Manches has recently produced two reports on this topic. The first features our international spousal maintenance barometer, showing where countries sit on the scale between dependency- where judges are more likely to award maintenance - and self-sufficiency, where a focus on financial autonomy is more common. The second deals with applications to remove children from the country.

For advice on divorce and relationship breakdown please contact Veronica Gilmour in the Guildford office of Penningtons Manches on 01483 411481 or email: veronica.gilmour@penningtons.co.uk.

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