International Divorce

International divorce is when you apply for a divorce in a country other than where you are living or where your permanent home is.

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Home > Family Law / Divorce > International Divorce and Child Custody

We specialize in handling international family law cases for:

  • British ex-pats
  • Foreign nationals with a UK connection
  • Children with a UK connection.

International divorce and child issues can throw up a variety of options:

  • Jurisdiction i.e. in which country can you start a divorce?
  • You may have a choice to divorce in a number of countries
  • How do the financial settlements on divorce compare between the two countries?
  • If you live in Continental Europe you may not be able to divorce in the UK
  • What are the laws relating to children?

Please see the case studies below to see some examples of the kinds of problems we can help you solve.

International and Expat Case Studies

British expats

  • Simon is a British expat working in the oil industry in the Middle East. His wife, Sally, is also British and they have separated. How do they proceed to divorce? Either one of them can raise a divorce action in the UK because they have British domicile (which is different from residency). But they still need to have a ground of divorce, which is likely to be based on unreasonable behaviour or the period of separation (1 to 5 years depending on circumstances). A financial settlement will need to be addressed.
  • Does it make any difference if Sally is Spanish? Either party can now elect to start the divorce in the UK or Spain.
  • If Simon and Sally had moved from the Middle East to live in Spain this would present a UK problem due to EU laws. Generally speaking, the place of habitual residence is the location for raising divorce within the EU. However, this has to be checked carefully.
  • How do Simon and Sally resolve child issues? The place of habitual residence of the child is the starting position for any necessary court action. For more information see the Hague Convention on Child Abduction and Moving or relocating with children.

Foreign nationals with a UK connection

  • Tony is from New York and he married Bev at her hometown in Windsor, UK. They live in New York, but then Bev leaves him and moves to Edinburgh. Where can he start a divorce? He can elect to do so in New York or in Edinburgh. He cannot easily use the place of marriage for divorce.
  • If Tony had moved over to London and Bev stayed in the US could he start a divorce in London? Only after establishing residency for a year (perhaps sooner if Bev retained UK domicile).


  • Matilda, aged 10 months, was born in Italy where she lives with her parents. Her mother is from the UK and her father is Italian. The couple separate after a huge row. Matilda is brought to the UK by her mother, who seeks legal advice. There may be no problems if the father does not object to Matilda living there with her mother. But he could insist that Matilda must return to Italy to determine her future according to Italian Law, as that is the place of her habitual residence.
  • Would it make any difference is Matilda was aged 14? In law, her father can still invoke the Hague Convention to force a return, but the Italian courts would have to take account of the views of the child in further proceedings.

Any questions?

Call our Family Law Team today on 0131 467 5566  or get in touch with us via our online enquiry form below.