High Court Ruling on Multinational Divorce

A case involving the multinational divorce of a British man living in the Netherlands with his Chinese wife, has prompted a High Court ruling on jurisdiction. The case of Divall v Divall was the one which triggered this particular ruling. The couple involved had first met in Germany and had subsequently got married in the UK. However, delays in securing a work visa for the Chinese wife scuppered the couple’s plans to live in Amsterdam, and as a result, the couple settled in the UK. Eventually the wife was granted a spousal visa and she became a legal British citizen.

After having children, the plan to move to Amsterdam finally came to fruition. The couple still kept their home in the UK, and they bought another property to live in in Holland. Not long after moving, the marriage began to break down, and the wife began seeing someone else.

After the breakdown of his marriage, Mr Divall then returned to the UK where he started divorce proceedings in the County Court. He argued that the divorce should be heard through the English courts on the basis that both partners were still legally domiciled in the UK. At the same time, the wife started divorce proceedings in the Netherlands, arguing that their permanent domicile was now there.

Mr Justice Moor, in his ruling on the case, accepted that although the husband had made the Netherlands his habitual residence, he remains a British citizen and domiciled in the UK as he was born here. The High Court ruled in favour of the wife’s position, stating it was clear that although the pair were both British citizens, they had left England permanently to forge a new life for themselves in The Netherlands. The English courts therefore have no jurisdiction in this case.

Mr Justice Moor also commented on the practice of shopping around [a phenomenon known as “forum shopping”] for the most favourable location to obtain a divorce, stating that it was improper to start litigation just because the location may be convenient.

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