How has Brexit impacted divorce between British and EU citizens?

Brexit has had a major impact on businesses and UK citizens alike, with different areas of our lives altered since the referendum. Many people have questions and concerns regarding Brexit and whether certain elements of our day-to-day lives have been influenced by the changes, including travelling, moving abroad, and family matters such as child custody and divorce. If you are a British citizen and your spouse is an EU citizen, you may be wondering if your ability to get a divorce has altered.

In this guide, we will explore whether you can get a divorce since Brexit, and the requirements if you or your spouse live abroad. We will also discuss whether your divorce will be recognised in the United Kingdom (UK) and the EU, what jurisdiction will deal with your divorce, and how experienced international solicitors such as our team at Giambrone and Partners can help.

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Discover if you are eligible for divorce from an EU citizen

Find out if you can get divorced in England or Wales when you live in another country

You can often choose your jurisdiction, but it isn’t always that straightforward

Discover whether your UK divorce will be recognised in the EU, and vice versa

Here’s how proficient international lawyers can assist you

Discover how our team can help you

Can I divorce someone who lives in the EU when I live in the UK?

The European Union (EU) laws surrounding family law and divorce no longer apply to the UK as of 31st December 2020. Particular laws of divorce, such as grounds for divorce and how assets are distributed, are governed by national legislation. However, if one spouse does not reside in the UK, these laws may not apply.

If you live in the UK but your spouse lives in the EU, you can still obtain a divorce, but it may not be as straightforward as a situation where both spouses reside in the UK. Jurisdiction may apply in the English and Welsh courts, but legal proceedings could take place in either country. If you are divorcing an EU national who lives in an EU country, you may need to apply to have your divorce recognised.

Out of the 27 member states of the EU, only 12 signed the Hague Convention 1970 on the Recognition Divorces and Legal Separations bill. The 15 member states that chose not to sign include France, Ireland and Spain. This means that, if your spouse is a citizen of any of these countries, your divorce may not be recognised, and you should seek legal advice.

If you are attempting to divorce an EU citizen who resides in a country that may not recognise your divorce, you should contact an international solicitor as soon as possible to discuss your case.

Can I divorce in the UK if I live abroad?

If you live abroad, whether that be in the EU or not, you can still get divorced in England and Wales provided you meet certain statutory requirements. There are different rules for Scottish citizens. Different countries have different laws, but if you are a UK citizen, you may wish to divorce in England and Wales, but your divorce may not be recognised in the country you live in if it did not sign the Hague Divorce Convention.

If you believe the English and Welsh courts will provide a better outcome, particularly in a financial sense, then you should aim to get jurisdiction there for the case. If you reside in the UK, it is better to pass your divorce through UK courts for practicality, legal fees, the length of proceedings and child custody arrangements. However, if you live outside of the UK, you should consider these factors before deciding to move your divorce case back to the UK. If you choose to stay abroad, there are UK-based international lawyers who can help.

Whether or not you can divorce in the UK when you live abroad depends on the applicable jurisdiction.

What jurisdiction will deal with my divorce?

Most couples will be able to choose the jurisdiction that their divorce case falls into. Jurisdiction is the country where your divorce proceedings, as well as financial and child arrangements, will take place. In order to be granted your choice of jurisdiction for your cross-border divorce, you will need to prove that:

  • Both you and your spouse have taken up permanent residence in England or Wales
  • Both you and your spouse last lived in England or Wales, and one of you still lives there
  • The person receiving or issuing the divorce petition takes up residence in England or Wales; if you are issuing the divorce, you need to have lived in England or Wales for the past 12 months
  • Both you are your spouse are domiciled in the UK; to have domiciled status in the UK, you must have been born in the UK and consider it your permanent home even if you are not currently living there

If you live abroad, but you wish to get divorced in the UK, you must meet at least one of these requirements. If you and your spouse cannot decide on the jurisdiction, you will need to seek legal advice and allow the courts to decide.

You can find out more about cross-border family disputes in our informational hub here.

Will my divorce be recognised in the UK and the EU?

As previously mentioned, your divorce may not be recognised in any EU country that has not signed the Hague Divorce Convention. If you were divorced in an EU member state, your divorce will automatically be recognised in other EU countries. If you were divorced in England or Wales, the rules are slightly more complex.

If you need your divorce recognised in one of the countries that didn’t sign the Hague Divorce Convention, you should seek legal advice to explore how you can proceed.

How can an international law firm help me?

Getting a divorce is a difficult enough process without the added stress of cross-border communication and choosing a jurisdiction. International lawyers can not only help you create a case to prepare for your divorce, but can help you ensure that jurisdiction is held in the country of your choice. If you need your divorce recognised in a particular country, seeking legal advice is the best course of action.

How Giambrone and Partners can assist

Here at Giambrone and Partners, we have various lawyers proficiently skilled in a range of different fields and countries, such as Spain, Italy and Portugal. They understand English, Welsh and EU law, and can help you gather the necessary evidence needed to build your divorce case, as well as help you gain authority over your preferred jurisdiction.

To find out more about how we can assist you when divorcing an EU citizen, please get in touch with our experienced international solicitors on our website.

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