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Divorcing in the UK if you were married abroad

It is possible to commence divorce proceedings in England even if you were married abroad. Where the marriage took place is, in fact, somewhat immaterial, provided that the ceremony was carried out in accordance with the local formalities and customs of the country in which it took place. If it was, the marriage will be valid, and recognised as such in England.

Whether you can file a divorce petition in England depends upon whether certain jurisdictional criteria are met. This is set out in legislation (specifically an EU regulation, known as Brussels II). This states that the English court has jurisdiction to hear the divorce if, when the divorce petition is issued by the applicant (the person applying for a divorce), any of the following applies:

  1. Both parties to the marriage are habitually resident in England and Wales;
  2. The parties were last habitually resident in England and Wales, and one of them still resides there;
  3. The respondent is habitually resident in England and Wales;
  4. The applicant is habitually resident in England and Wales, provided they have resided there for at least one year before applying for a divorce;
  5. The applicant is habitually resident in England and Wales, provided they have resided there for at least six months before applying for a divorce and are domiciled in England and Wales;
  6. Both parties are domiciled in England and Wales; or
  7. If no EU member state has jurisdiction in accordance with the above, provided that one party is domiciled in England and Wales.

Domicile and habitual residence are complex legal concepts. The circumstances in which they apply, and how they apply, depends upon the specific facts of each case.

Vardags can help you ascertain the best jurisdiction in which to get divorced based upon your individual circumstances, since this decision can have far reaching financial implications. Making this decision in a timely manner is crucial, and Vardags experienced family lawyers will provide the support and advice required at each stage of this process, no matter where your marriage took place. Our longstanding network of specialist family lawyers abroad can also prove invaluable, particularly when there are time pressures involved.

Vardags advise on all issues arising from the breakdown of relationships for parties who were married abroad, dealing with disputes which have complex jurisdictional and offshore elements to them. Indeed, our lawyers deal on a day to day basis with high value jurisdiction disputes, and work on cases involving numerous European jurisdictions, but also those outside of Europe and further afield.

Why is the UK known as the divorce capital of the world?

Vardags team of top international divorce lawyers delivers a bespoke legal service to HNW and UHNW individuals, their families, and businesses.

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.


Ayesha Vardag

Founder & President Ayesha Vardag Founder & President Divorce & Family
“Ayesha Vardag - Britain's top divorce lawyer.” 
The Telegraph

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Chief Executive Officer Stephen Bence Vardags CEO
“Dr Stephen Bence is a financial genius.” 
Lewis Marks KC

David Lister

Senior Partner - Divorce & Family David Lister
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