Can I get divorced in England if I was married overseas?

The general rule is yes, you can get a divorce under English and Welsh law provided that you have complied with the requirements of a lawful marriage ceremony and you and/or your spouse are either habitual residents or domiciled in the UK.

If you are able to satisfy the above criteria, then there will be jurisdiction in England and Wales for you to start divorce proceedings. Habitual residency and domicile are similar legal concepts. In effect, a spouse needs to have lived permanently in the UK or has been living in the UK for a period of 6 months to a year immediately before filing for divorce. As this is a complex area, we would recommend you obtain expert advice and advice from an international divorce lawyer from the other jurisdiction as well.

If the other country with jurisdiction is within the EU (except Denmark), then it is important to act quickly because, if a party begins divorce proceedings in an EU member state (covered by Brussels II Revised), the court of the member state which is first seized of the matter gains exclusive jurisdiction.

You may be asked to produce copies of any formal papers including the marriage certificate and defamations from witnesses, which will need to be translated into English, if not already. This can make the process more expensive.

Enforcement considerations

When deciding which jurisdiction to get a divorce under, you will need to consider the enforcement of the orders you are hoping to receive. You will need to consider where the assets are and if the financial orders obtained are enforceable in the jurisdiction where the assets are.

A main area for consideration is pensions. If you obtain a pension sharing order in the UK but the pension in question is with a company from another country, it is unlikely that you will be able to enforce the sharing order as the other country will be under no obligation to accept it.

For more information regarding divorce, please contact our family department at our Guildford office on 01483 451900.