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Can you get a divorce if you married abroad?

With the ever-rising cost of getting married in the UK, more and more couples are looking abroad for their big day. Paying for the day’s run of your local castle, a full package of photos and enough food and drink to keep a few hundred-people happy for an evening can add up easily to a few thousand pounds and its simply not affordable for many cash-strapped couples. Far more appealing is the idea of inviting your closest friends and family to fly out somewhere warm and watch you celebrate your love, grabbing a quick holiday in the process. It’s an ideal set up where everyone is happy, that is unless you eventually separate and start to think about officially divorcing. You and your partner are both under stress, trying to navigate a process that can be confusing even in straightforward instances – but you married abroad. Does this mean you have to divorce abroad, too? Thankfully we’re here to explain it all so you can focus on maintaining an amicable relationship and sorting your finances out like any separating pair of British citizens. Our handy 'At a Glance' guide should help you follow the steps.

I live in the UK, but was married abroad

As long as you or your spouse are currently living in the England or Wales, you are under the jurisdiction of their courts regardless of where you were married. This means you can easily divorce here using Quickie Divorce, provided you both consent to the process. Problems could spring up if your marriage certificate was issued in another language, as it should be in English for the divorce process. If this is the case, you will need to get a notarised copy of the document, this means you will contact and pay a professional to translate the document and then visiting a Public Notary for them to declare that the translation is correct. This can be a costly procedure, but it needs to happen for you to divorce so its well worth the expense.

Other issues can arise if you no longer have the original copy of your marriage certificate in the first place – you will then need to get a certified copy which can only come from the relevant authority within the country you were married. Each country has a different process for this, so it’s worth getting in touch with their individual government to find out what your next steps are. To streamline this you can also reach out to your holiday or wedding planner, if you used one, because they will be well placed to be familiar with the local procedure. Contacting the relevant embassy is also a useful idea.

I still live abroad but my spouse is in the UK

If your spouse currently lives in England or Wales and you live abroad, you can still divorce them. You can act as the petitioner and send them, and the courts the completed divorce forms and they can ask as the respondent, and consent to the divorce. Please note that despite being part of the UK, for the purposes of divorcing in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland also count as ‘foreign’ and are subject to the same difference in process. Couples should use courts in those countries if both parties reside in them.

I divorced abroad, is it valid in the UK?

It depends. If your divorce was granted in an EU member country, then the divorce will almost certainly be recognised in the UK. There will usually have been a formal legal system with binding orders that utilise formal procedures regarding legal matters in order for them to be a member nation in the first place, so you’re probably in the clear. If the divorce was granted in a country outside of the EU, you should consider whether the process you followed was formal, with a requirement to submit documents and a process of review before it was approved similar to how the UK courts would deal with the papers. If there was a formal procedure and the divorce is officially recognised in the country where it was granted, it is probably valid in the UK too.

The biggest indicator of if your foreign divorce is valid is if either of you have any connection to the country you divorced in. If one of you is originally from there or currently lives there, and that’s why you divorced there, this makes sense and the process was probably binding and fully recognised all over the world. If not, you need to ask yourself why.

You should seek legal advice if you are still unsure, as an incomplete divorce can potentially cost you huge amounts of money in the long run inheritance claims and problems with wills.

For specific advice, you can contact us and we can assist you.

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