International Family Law Chambers

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Frequently Asked Questions

  Here are some examples of the questions our network of expert lawyers frequently answer. If you have a question please see our Getting Legal Advice page and use the Enquiry Form.

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QUESTION:
My husband and I and our children are English but we have been living in Sweden for the past couple of years because of his temporary job transfer to Stockholm. Last week my husband left us and moved in with his secretary and today he has told me he wants a divorce. What should I do?
ANSWER:
You must start an English divorce, based on your husband’s adultery and/or unreasonable behaviour, immediately in order to protect the financial position of you and the children. If your husband starts a Swedish divorce first there may be a risk that you will end up with no maintenance for yourself because Swedish courts tend not to grant spousal maintenance following divorce. Under European family law legislation which came into effect throughout the European Union (except Denmark) in March 2001, the first to issue and serve valid divorce papers will almost certainly be able to finalise the divorce in his or her country of choice.

In international cases it is essential to act quickly to secure the most favourable divorce jurisdiction because laws vary considerably between the different countries. The European divorce jurisdiction law (known as Brussels II) affects every divorcing couple with nationality, residence or domicile links with the European Union.

QUESTION:
Getting divorced in London - what does it cost and how long does it take?
ANSWER:
An uncontested adultery petition issued by the Principal Registry of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice in London should normally reach Decree Nisi stage in about three months, with Decree Absolute six weeks after the date of Decree Nisi. The cost would be about 1,500.00 (plus United Kingdom value added tax of 20 percent, if applicable), some of which may be recovered from the Respondent.

The divorce can sometimes be done more quickly in special circumstances, in which case the cost would be greater to cover the additional documentation and court hearings.

Where the divorce is based on other grounds (for example, unreasonable behaviour, two years separation with consent of the Respondent, etc) or where it is contested, or where issues relating to children and finances need to be resolved, the delay and cost will increase.

QUESTION:
I have heard that I can get a quickie divorce in the Dominican Republic or Mexico. Is this true?
ANSWER:
Yes and No. Go ahead if you want your divorce to be recognised only in the Dominican Republic or Mexico and there are no other issues, for example in relation to children or money, which need to be resolved. But if you want your divorce to be effective in your home country, for example, so you can legally sort out related issues or re-marry, it will probably be better for you to divorce in your home jurisdiction. Get legal advice on where you should divorce.

QUESTION:
Do I need a pre-marriage or pre-nuptial agreement?
ANSWER:
Some countries virtually mandate a pre-marriage agreement: if you do not make one yourself the law will impose a marriage regime on you (for example, in France, Germany, Sweden and some other European countries) which will regulate your financial rights and obligations during the marriage and in case of divorce. In common law jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand a pre-marriage agreement may be advisable. It should always be considered where there are international factors in the proposed marriage. General rule: it is a good idea to get legal advice, before you marry, about whether you should have a pre-marriage agreement.

QUESTION:
I am living in the United States. How do I sue my ex-husband in Australia for child maintenance?
ANSWER:
You may not need to. In Australia the Child Support Agency covers Australian citizen children throughout the world so long as the non-custodial parent is resident in Australia. However, if the child is not an Australian citizen or you are not able to use the Child Support Agency for other reasons it will probably be best for you to sue in Australia.

QUESTION:
I am American and my husband is British. We were married in New York then moved to London where our two children were born. They are dual citizens. I want to leave the marriage and take my children back to New York to live. Can my husband stop me?
ANSWER:
Yes (unless you happen to be a professional diplomat covered by the immunity provisions of the Vienna Convention). You would be committing a criminal offence if you took the children to the United States to live without your husband's permission or an English Court Order allowing you to do this. Even if you succeeded in getting the children out of the United Kingdom they would probably be returned by the New York Court pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. You must get comprehensive legal advice before you do anything. You can find out more about the Hague Convention at www.hcch.net

QUESTION:
What is collaborative family law?
ANSWER:
This is a new approach to family law born in the USA and pioneered in England by Resolution. Lawyers in many countries now offer this service as an alternative to litigation. Couples, their lawyers and other professionals work together in roundtable meetings to negotiate agreements to resolve financial and other issues without contested Court proceedings. Collaborative family lawyers undergo special training to develop the skills to negotiate for their clients away from the court room.

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