Can I divorce in the UK if I married abroad?

Destination weddings continue to grow in popularity and in recent years 25% of British adults have either attended a wedding abroad or plan to during 2023. While it’s hard to fast forward to consider what happens if the marriage ends in divorce, it’s important to understand the legal landscape and potential complexities involved.

Do note that divorce laws differ between countries in the UK and the following advice applies to England and Wales only.

Can I divorce in the UK if I married abroad?

There is no short answer to this, as various factors can make divorcing in the UK more complicated. However, if the following criteria are met, a couple should be able to get a divorce even if they married abroad.

The original marriage certificate can be produced, and it is in the English language
  • If the original marriage certificate has been lost, a certified copy of the certificate from the registry office where the marriage took place must be obtained.
  • If the certificate is not in English, a certified translation must be organised.
  • Both instances will incur additional fees.
The marriage is recognised as legal by UK law

A couple can only seek a divorce in the UK if the marriage is considered legal in UK law. While this can be a complicated area, the standard position is that the UK will recognise a marriage where:

  • the marriage is legally recognised by the state in the country where it took place.
  • the correct procedures were complied with.
  • the couple had capacity to marry.
  • any previous marriages had been properly terminated.
The couple have sufficient connection to England and Wales regarding domicile or habitual residence

Habitual residence refers to the place where a person’s life is based – where they work, live and any children go to school. Domicile refers to the country a person was born in and/or where their closest ties and most permanent life is based.

For English and Welsh courts to have jurisdiction to grant a divorce, one of the following requirements must be satisfied:

  • The couple are both habitual residents of England and Wales
  • The couple were both habitual residents of England and Wales and one party continues to live there
  • One party is habitually resident in England and Wales
  • One party is habitually resident in England and Wales and has resided there for over a year
  • One party is habitually resident in England and Wales and has resided there for 6 months, as well as being domiciled in England and Wales
  • Both or either party is domiciled in England and Wales

The law around habitual residence and domicile can be complex and it is best to seek the advice and support of a family lawyer to help you navigate the divorce process. More information can be found on the government website


If you are considering divorce or separation we offer compassionate and practical legal advice and an initial no obligation 60 minute consultation for £50 (incl. VAT) to explain the impact on your personal circumstances.

We can arrange this in person at our office in Haywards Heath or on a video call. To book an appointment please call 01444 472700, email or complete the form below.


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