We are sometimes asked whether it’s possible to get divorced in England if a marriage was celebrated overseas. Many British nationals marry at popular holiday destinations such as the Seychelles for example. Can such a marriage be dissolved in the UK? The short answer is yes – provided the usual rules on UK residence and domicile are met. However, as with a marriage formalised in any international jurisdiction, or where either spouse has a legal connection to the Seychelles it may also be possible to divorce under the laws of that jurisdiction.
Our team of international divorce lawyers represents clients whose divorce has any kind of international element and who are seeking a divorce in England. In particular we advise on how to issue proceedings in the most appropriate jurisdiction for you. In this short guide we look at some aspects of the Seychelles family law system. In particular we examine how the courts there decide matters relating to divorce, children and family finances.
The Family Law System In The Seychelles
The Seychelles’ past as both a French and British colony means the present day legal system draws on both the Napoleonic civil law regime and British common law.
The principal family legislation in the Seychelles is the 1992 Matrimonial Causes Act (as amended). It specifies that all family-related issues, including divorce, are decided by the Seychelles Family Tribunal.
A new Civil Code was approved in 2020. It aims to modernise the law on family in the Seychelles. It deals with issues such as the prohibition of child marriage, recognition of children born outside marriage and prenuptial agreements.
Grounds For Divorce In The Seychelles
Either spouse can file a divorce petition stating that the marriage has broken down irretrievably on one of the following grounds:
- Behaviour of the respondent spouse that means the petitioning spouse cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent
- Desertion for two years
- One year’s separation (if both spouses are in agreement)
Unless a petitioner can demonstrate that he or she has suffered ‘exceptional hardship’ or that the respondent spouse is ‘exceptionally depraved’ a divorce petition can’t be presented until at least a year has elapsed since the marriage.
Child Arrangements Following
Both parties to a divorce have the equal right to petition for custody of their children. Child arrangements are decided by the Family Tribunal which, when making any decision will have the welfare of the child as its paramount consideration.
The Civil Code states explicitly that divorce or separation has no bearing on parental authority – each parent is required to respect the interests of the other as far the child’s upbringing goes. That said, the courts have the power to make orders deviating from this shared responsibility if it’s in the best interests of the child.
Financial Orders In The Seychelles
The Matrimonial Causes Act contains detailed provisions for the making of financial orders following a conditional order of divorce. The courts have extensive powers to make enquiries into marital finances and take into account all the circumstances of the case, including the earning ability and financial means of each spouse.
There are also specific powers given to the courts to deal with the situation where one spouse attempts to defeat a financial claim by, for example, transferring property out of the Seychelles.
How We Can Help With Your International Divorce
If you or your spouse have a legal connection to the Seychelles – if you were married there or one or both of you are nationals of the country but live in the UK – it’s essential to get advice from an experienced international divorce lawyer if your marriage has broken down.
At Brookman we represent clients from all over the world. Even if we have not dealt directly with cases involving the legal system of the Seychelles our global experience enables us to provide up to date advice on any international aspects of your divorce when you need it.
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