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International Family Law: Can I divorce someone who is not in the UK?

International family law is becoming a common theme for our clients. Today, with super-fast internet and cheap travel, the world seems smaller than it ever has before. This has resulted in more ‘international families’ and ultimately, a growing number of divorces with an international element.

When dealing with international family law, where in the world divorce proceedings are started, could make a difference to how your finances are divided.


In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the rules surrounding international family law and whether you may be able to divorce someone who is currently not in the country.


Before looking in more detail as to whether you may be able to begin divorce proceedings in England and Wales (i.e. whether the courts have jurisdiction in order to accept your divorce petition), it is important to note that you must have been married for at least a year, in order to get a divorce in England and Wales.


Do the courts in England and Wales have jurisdiction to deal with international family law?

If your spouse is not in the country, whether or not you may be able to start divorce proceedings in the UK depends on whether the courts have jurisdiction. In order to petition for divorce in England and Wales (it is different in other parts of the UK), it is necessary to have a sufficient connection to England and Wales.

international family law


This may be influenced by a number of different factors, including where you or your spouse are ‘domiciled’ and where you are ‘habitually resident’. More information about this can be found on our webpage dedicated to international family law and divorce.


A solicitor, advising you on international family law, should be able to advise you as to your domicile and habitual residency.


In short, you may be able to petition for divorce in England and Wales, even if your spouse is not in the country, as long as you show sufficient connection to England and Wales.


Grounds for divorce in England and Wales

In order apply for a divorce in England and Wales, you will need to show that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, giving one of five reasons: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, separation for more than 2 years (with your spouse’s agreement) or separation for at least five years (no agreement necessary).


The race to petition

It is possible for more than one country to have jurisdiction.


If this is another country within the EU, the country where the divorce is petitioned for first will normally have jurisdiction.


This means that it is important to act quickly if you think your spouse may petition for divorce in another country and you want your divorce proceedings to take place in the UK. In these circumstances, speed can be of the essence.


If the other country is outside of the EU, various factors can influence which country’s courts should have jurisdiction.


If your spouse is not in the UK and you want a divorce, it is highly recommended that you speak to a solicitor who is experienced in international family law, as this can be a highly complex area of law. Here at Austin Kemp, our experienced solicitors regularly deal with international family law matters.


How can our expert international family law solicitors help you?

Our expert international family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues:


Contact our expert divorce solicitors for advice

For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email


Our expert divorce solicitors offer a nationwide service. We have client meeting office facilities available, in order to have face-to-face client meetings / conferences as and when required in our:

Leeds Office: St Andrew House, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 5JW

Sheffield Office: Pinfold Street, The Balance, Sheffield, S1 2GU

Manchester Office: King Street, Manchester, M2 4PD

Wakefield Office: Market Walk, Wakefield, WF1 1QR

Canary Wharf Office: 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5LB

London Office: 01 Nothumberland Avenue, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5BW

Please contact us for more details.

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08th November 2018

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