An international marriage can include a husband and wife of differing nationalities, a couple living together in a country which is not their home country or even a couple living apart from each other in separate countries.
Within the member states of the EU there are approximately 122 million marriages, 16 million or 13% of which are international marriages and, in 2007, within the 27 states of the EU, 1 million divorces took place with 140,000 or 13% of those having an international element.
According to divorce solicitors in London, the courts of the EU member states have differing ways of deciding which particular country’s law should apply when it comes to the divorce of a couple in an international marriage. This can create an awful lot of legal uncertainty and may even lead to one partner taking advantage of the other partner, who could be in a weaker position financially, with possibly the stronger spouse pushing through the proceedings in a jurisdiction where the applied law favours him or her over the other partner.
Financial settlements for divorces can vary from country to country so, in order to achieve the best settlement figure, the spouse will need to seek family law advice on this particular area.
Although it is possible to begin legal proceedings for a divorce in more than one country the EU rule states that the divorce which was started first will be the divorce which will prevail.
Many family breakdowns in the EU have an international element and often, in the event of the breakdown, some partners will wish to return to their home countries to seek the support and comfort of their family and friends.
However, this isn’t as straightforward as just jumping on a plane and moving back into the family home, especially when there are children involved in the breakdown.
If a spouse has children and wishes to relocate abroad with his or her children then English law states that the spouse will need to obtain permission from everyone who has parental responsibility of those children before leaving the country or to apply for an order of the English court.
If a child or children are removed, without permission, by a spouse to one of the countries who are signatories to The Hague and European Convention on Child Abduction those countries will give full co-operation to make sure that the child or children are returned to the parent still residing in England.
However, things can become particularly tricky if a parent relocates with his or her children, without permission, to a country which isn’t a signatory of the Convention on Child Abduction and it can be an extremely costly, confusing and very traumatic experience for the parent attempting to get his or her children back, especially when it comes to initiating legal proceedings in a foreign country.
Historically, there was a presumption that children would move abroad with their mother if she was a foreign national wishing to go back to her home country, but a recent Court of Appeal decision has stressed that the welfare of the children is paramount and that each case needs to be determined on it’s own merits.