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International Divorce: Can British Expats Get Divorced in the UK?

Can British Expats Get Divorced in the UK?

Divorce abroad.

Working through a divorce can be a maze of emotions and paperwork. When British expats enter the equation, the complexity is amplified by a host of new factors. Suddenly, terms like ‘domicile’ and ‘jurisdiction’ become part of the conversation, leaving you scratching your head.  With the introduction of the No Fault divorce law in 2022, navigating this path has become more appealing for expats, offering a smoother process.

In this blog, we’ll delve into the intriguing question of whether British expats can seek a divorce in the UK while living abroad.  We will touch on what it means to be domiciled in the UK and discuss the complications of jurisdiction. And finally we will look at family mediation as an option and review its effectiveness.

 Understanding Domicile in the Context of UK Divorce

Domicile is a legal concept that plays an important role in determining where and under which legal jurisdiction a person can file for divorce. Domicile, in this context, refers to your permanent home, the place you consider to be your true and lasting home, and where you have significant ties.

“Domicile is acquired at birth, and is essentially the place where you have, or consider to have, your permanent home, even if you’re not currently living there. This means that you can be domiciled in a different country from the one in which you’re residing, for example, you can be resident in Europe but still domiciled in the UK. However, you can only have one domicile at any given time, where moving to a new country in the long-term, whilst severing all ties with your domicile of origin, may mean that you’ve acquired a new domicile overseas.” – Mewies Solicitors

Can British Expats Get Divorced in the UK? 

The question of whether British expatriates can get divorced in the UK is complex and is dependent on various legal and personal circumstances. Let’s explore this query by looking at scenarios where it is and isn’t possible.

Possible Scenarios:
  • Both Spouses Live Abroad and One is Domiciled in the UK

If both British expat spouses live abroad but one of them maintains a domicile in the UK, it may be possible to file for divorce in the UK. The domicile factor allows the UK courts to have jurisdiction over the divorce proceedings. For example, if one spouse is working overseas temporarily but maintains their UK domicile, divorce can be sought in the UK.

  • One Spouse Abroad, One in the UK

If one spouse resides abroad while the other still lives in the UK, the spouse in the UK can initiate divorce proceedings in the UK courts. This is feasible as long as the spouse residing in the UK meets the residency requirements, which typically involve having lived in the UK for at least six months preceding the divorce application.

Challenging Scenarios:
  • Both Spouses Live Abroad with No UK Domicile

If neither spouse has maintained a UK domicile, pursuing a divorce in the UK might not be possible. The absence of UK domicile can prevent UK courts from having jurisdiction in the case.

  • Both Spouses Live Abroad with No Connection to the UK

When both British expat spouses live abroad without any connection to the UK, seeking a divorce in the UK is generally not an option. In such cases, the UK courts would lack jurisdiction.



Understanding Jurisdiction in International Divorce

Lock on fenceJurisdiction refers to a court’s authority to make legal decisions. In international divorce cases, determining the appropriate jurisdiction can be complex. The jurisdiction in which you can file for divorce depends on various factors, including the country where you and your spouse are domiciled, where you last lived together, and where your assets are located. Jurisdiction can significantly impact the outcome of your divorce.

Seeking legal advice from a specialist in family law is important so they can determine the most appropriate jurisdiction for your specific situation.

Mediation in International Divorce Cases

Family mediation is a viable option in international divorce cases, whether both spouses live abroad, or one resides in England or Wales. Family mediation allows you to work together to reach agreements on important issues like child arrangements, property division, and maintenance payments. These agreements can be highly beneficial in minimising conflict and ensuring a more amicable divorce process.

While agreements reached through mediation can be legally binding in England & Wales, enforcing them abroad can be more challenging. Different countries may not recognise divorce agreements made here, making it necessary to seek legal advice and potentially obtain a separate agreement in the country where you reside. International divorce lawyers can help navigate the legal requirements and ensure that your agreements are enforceable in your current country of residence.

It’s important to note that family mediators in the UK are trained to facilitate constructive discussions and assist in finding solutions, all while understanding and sharing knowledge of the law in England & Wales. While they are not able to provide legal advice, their expertise is valuable in helping couples work through issues related to divorce. However, the scope of this knowledge is specific to that of England & Wales.

In cases where the divorce involves multiple jurisdictions, it becomes helpful to recognise that mediators can only offer general ideas and guidance, as their expertise may not extend to the intricacies of international legal systems. Seeking specialised legal counsel in the relevant jurisdictions is preferable for addressing such complexities.


Divorcing as a British expat living abroad involves various practical and legal considerations, particularly regarding domicile, jurisdiction, and the enforceability of agreements reached in the UK. It’s important to consult with experienced family law experts who can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation. With their assistance, you can navigate the legal complexities and work toward a fair and mutually agreeable divorce, no matter where in the world you call home.

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