It is important that divorce proceedings can be concluded as quickly as possible in order to minimise the distress experienced by children. Most western courts believe that blanket rules about the welfare of children should be avoided, for example the assumption that children up to a certain age should reside with their mother. It is also commonly held that local courts in the child’s habitual country of residence are best placed to make decisions over their future.
If an expatriate couple living in France get divorced, leaving the mother wanted to take the two young sons back to the UK and the father wanting to keep the family together in France, one might think that it would be an issue for French courts. However, there is presently a waiting time of three years. The mother would not be able to apply to the UK courts because of the children’s British heritage because prior permission from the French courts would be required first. Instead, temporary leave of court would be needed until the final hearing and this would eventually become a permanent arrangement.
Different legal systems take very different views of divorce. These differences are not just between regions but within them as demonstrated by the differences between Malta and the UK, both European countries. In the UK, divorce on the grounds of adultery or unreasonable behaviour is permissible without a waiting period, whereas in Malta divorce is hardly recognised and couples can only get annulments.
Expatriates in China will not be able to use the local courts because are exclusively for Chinese citizens. Gulf States use religious courts, meaning that expatriates cannot use those either. In these situations, expatriates will need to apply to UK courts provided that they have not changed their UK domicile already.
Divorcing abroad? Our family team specialise in child matters
The divorce lawyers at Bonallack & Bishop understand how difficult divorce proceedings can be for children. Not only are our solicitors experts in divorce-related child matters but they have vast experience of overseas divorce as well.
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