If I married abroad, can I still divorce in the UK?

A common question that family solicitors encounter is whether couples who married abroad can get divorced in the UK. The first point to note is that divorce laws differ between countries within the UK. England and Wales have the same divorce laws and it is this jurisdiction that we are concerned with here. Where a married couple who are settled in England and Wales wish to divorce having got legally married abroad, it is legally acceptable for that couple to divorce in England and Wales – there is no requirement for the divorce to take place in the country where they married.

There are however certain circumstances where divorcing in England and Wales can be more complicated, following a marriage abroad. Such circumstances include the following:

  • Where the marriage certificate is not in English. While this does not cause a serious problem, there is a requirement for a certified translation of the marriage certificate to be obtained which is likely to ensue additional costs.
  • Where the marriage certificate has been lost. It is a requirement for the original marriage certificate or a certified copy to be provided to the court on applying for a divorce in England and Wales. If the marriage took place in the UK, then certified copies of the marriage certificate can readily be obtained from the appropriate registry office for a small fee. While this is similarly possible from many countries abroad, there are some countries where it can be very difficult or impossible to obtain a certified copy of a marriage certificate. In such circumstances, it may be possible to obtain an order dispensing with the need to file a marriage certificate.
  • Being able to apply for a divorce in England and Wales is dependent upon the UK recognising the marriage as a legal marriage. 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, and any previous marriages had been properly terminated.
  • To apply to divorce in England and Wales, a couple must have sufficient connection for the court to have jurisdiction. In summary, the parties must be able to satisfy one of the following criteria:
    • The Respondent is habitually resident in England and Wales.
    • The Petitioner is habitually resident in England and Wales and has resided there for at least 1 year immediately preceding the application.
    • The Petitioner is domiciled and habitually resident in England and Wales and has resided there for at least 6 months prior to the application.
    • The couple were last habitually resident in England and Wales and one of them still resides there.
    • Both parties are domiciled in England and Wales.
    • That no EU member state has jurisdiction and one of the parties is living in England and Wales on the date of the application.

Given that this can be quite a complicated area, if a couple have married abroad and are in any doubt about their eligibility to divorce in the UK, then we would always recommend that such individuals seek early advice from a family solicitor prior to issuing their divorce application.

At Tisshaws we offer an initial consultation of up to one hour for £50.00 (Incl. VAT), where you can receive further guidance specific to your personal circumstances.  To book an appointment, please contact 01444 472700, email info@tisshawssolicitors.co.uk or complete the form below.

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