For those that married abroad, who live abroad but were married in England, or who have lived in various countries throughout their marriage, it is difficult to know which country is the right one in which to file for divorce, particularly as the courts’ standards and ideas of fairness vary between countries.

When considering where to file for divorce, the couple must have some connection with this country. This rule is pretty standard across the EU, although there are some slight differences for UK and Ireland jurisdictions*.

Of course, couples often want to file for divorce in the country that provides them with the most generous outcome. However, to consider a country as a possible jurisdiction, you or your spouse must either:

  • be resident in that country (or seriously considering moving back there); or
  • a national of that country (or, in English courts, have ‘domicile’* there)

You cannot file for divorce in more than one country; if this is attempted, then the country in which proceedings were first filed would ‘seize’ jurisdiction and override any attempts to file elsewhere. If both parties simultaneously file for divorce in different countries, it is a ‘jurisdictional race’ as to where the divorce will be completed, as generally, whoever files first will seize jurisdiction in the country of their choosing.

As a part of the divorce process, couples often deal with their financial matters too. Like with divorce, jurisdiction is important as outcomes differ due to varying ideas of fairness and rules of different courts. In England, for example, the Court generally starts by considering division of a couple’s capital equally between parties, before considering their specific circumstances and only then making a final decision.

When considering jurisdiction, therefore, you must seriously consider whether a jurisdiction is right for your scenario and whether it will provide you with the outcome you want. Also, bear in mind that your spouse might be considering the same and filing those papers with haste!

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