I don’t live in England or Wales. Can I apply for a divorce there?


Is the country of the divorce proceeding important?

Where your divorce proceedings occur can greatly influence your financial outcome. Every jurisdiction employs unique financial rules upon divorce, and outcomes might diverge considerably depending on the location of your divorce initiation. The duration and expenditure tied to a divorce also vary among jurisdictions. Careful advice is essential to ensure your divorce takes place where it is most favourable for you. Often, England and Wales might be the most beneficial for the financially lesser spouse; in contrast with other jurisdictions, courts here are mandated to prioritise fairness, ensuring both parties’ needs are addressed post-divorce, granting broad authority for spousal maintenance provisions. Spousal maintenance refers to the funds one ex-spouse provides to the other for a set duration or possibly for life after divorce. In some nations, the entitlement to spousal maintenance may not be recognised, or it might be limited in scope or time.

I reside abroad – Is initiating divorce in England and Wales possible?

Even if you reside abroad or don’t possess a British passport, in specific situations, you might still be eligible to apply for a divorce in England and Wales. Yet, certain criteria, detailed below, must be met for the proceedings to be initiated.

Which criteria should I meet?

For those outside of the jurisdiction, your ability to initiate divorce proceedings hinges on the legal notions of ‘habitual residence’ and ‘domicile’. Demonstrating a strong connection to England and Wales is crucial. Therefore, the courts here can address your divorce if any of the following conditions hold true:

  • Both you and your spouse are habitually residing in England and Wales.
  • Both you and your spouse last resided habitually in England and Wales, and one remains there.
  • Your spouse currently resides habitually in England and Wales.
  • If you are habitually residing in England and Wales and have stayed for at least the past year prior to the application.
  • If your domicile and habitual residence are in England and Wales, and you’ve been there for at least the past six months before the application.
  • Both you and your spouse have their domicile in England and Wales.
  • Either you or your spouse have a domicile in England or Wales.

What does ‘habitual residence’ mean?

Being habitually resident in England and Wales implies you’ve set your enduring focal point here. This typically means living or spending a majority of your time in this region. Only one habitual residence can be held at a time. Proving habitual residence requires illustrating your domestic, monetary, business, health, and banking arrangements within England and Wales. Essentially, if relocating from abroad, you should prove your intention to settle in England and Wales, shifting your life’s core here. The key is to manifest a commitment to rooting your life in England or Wales, ensuring a consistent presence in the UK.

What is meant by ‘domicile’?

Your domicile represents the nation you regard as your lasting abode. It might not always match your nationality or current residence. A single domicile is maintained at any given time, but it can evolve with changing situations. Within the divorce context, two kinds of domicile are pertinent:

  1. Domicile of origin

This refers to your domicile at birth. For those born to married parents, it’s the father’s domicile. If they weren’t married or if the father passed away before birth, it becomes the mother’s domicile. Birthplace doesn’t play a role. While a domicile of origin doesn’t vanish permanently, it can be superseded by a domicile of choice or dependency. If the latter two are lost, the original domicile is reinstated.

  1. Domicile of choice

Acquiring a domicile of choice happens when you reside in England and Wales with the intention of permanent, indefinite stay.

When should I initiate divorce proceedings in England and Wales?

Before Brexit, a policy was in place dictating that the first country to receive the divorce application was in charge of the divorce. Consequently, spouses often hurried to begin proceedings in the jurisdiction most beneficial to them. This policy is no longer in effect. Instead, the jurisdiction most closely associated with the couple addresses the divorce. There might be a need for an initial hearing to ascertain the most connected country for ongoing proceedings. Thus, promptness in initiating divorce remains pivotal. Immediate counsel is recommended to safeguard your stance in England and Wales, especially since the initial location for divorce proceedings can be crucial in identifying the more connected country.


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