Recent years have seen a marked increase in global mobility, with many people settling in countries away from their birthplace. Many of these individuals will then form relationships and get married to residents of their adopted nations.
Unfortunately, some of these marriages will end in separation, raising the prospect of an international divorce. This situation involves navigating the laws and regulations of multiple countries, making the process much more complex than domestic divorces.
If you’re considering separating from a spouse from another country, one of the first things you might wonder is “how long does an international divorce take?” Due to various factors at play, the answer to this question is not as straightforward as it may seem. Therefore, seeking specialised legal advice becomes crucial to ensure a smooth, legally sound international divorce process.
The International Divorce Process
A lot goes into an international divorce, so it’s important to understand how the process works. From establishing jurisdiction and choosing the right country to launch proceedings in, to navigating often complex religious and custody laws, thorough preparation is needed to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
Working with a divorce solicitor who has amassed a great deal of experience in international cases is extremely important. They will have a thorough understanding of everything involved and will know exactly what pitfalls and difficulties may arise — saving you from potentially expensive and time-consuming delays.
How Long Does International Divorce Take?
How long an international divorce takes depends on the circumstances of the individuals involved. While a very rough estimate can be made of nine-to-twelve months, there are several factors which could delay progress. These include marriages involving high net worth individuals with complex cross-jurisdictional assets, if children are involved, and cases where one of the parties has moved back to their home country.
Understanding how these situations can affect and potentially delay the international divorce process is crucial. Consulting a specialist solicitor at the beginning of proceedings will enable them to develop a bespoke strategy which takes into account all of your circumstances — boosting your chances of a swift resolution.
Potential International Divorce Issues
The question of how long an international divorce takes is usually dependent on several core factors. These include whether one of the parties has significant wealth, overseas assets or pension schemes, or if there are children involved. Each has the potential to significantly slow things down and must be handled with care.
The main causes of delay to the international divorce process are:
Complexity of Assets
High net worth divorces can be extremely complicated and difficult to understand without guidance from a specialist solicitor. Individuals with significant wealth often have complex financial and tax structures, including business interests, which will need careful evaluation to be unravelled.
Many people with significant wealth will also have a large proportion of their assets held overseas. These assets are subject to the laws of the countries where they’re housed, and can be challenging to accurately trace and value. As a result, it’s essential to work closely with an international divorce lawyer who has relationships with third-party experts such as forensic accountants. These professionals can help track overseas assets efficiently and effectively, reducing the chances of any prolonged delays in the divorce process.
Serving of Court Documents
In some cases, a former spouse may decide to move back to their home country before divorce proceedings can be finalised. This can make serving court orders and the like particularly difficult to arrange as it generally must be done in person. It may even prove challenging to locate your partner, something which will undoubtedly extend the process.
Depending on how cordial your relationship remains with your former spouse, there are a few ways in which this issue can be addressed. One such method is asking your ex-partner to waive their right to having court documents personally served — opening the possibility of sending them via email, post, or fax.
In more acrimonious situations, or if locating your spouse is a significant challenge, you may need to consider hiring a foreign process server. This option should generally only be explored after exhausting all other alternatives, as it can be both expensive and time-consuming.
Working with a specialist international divorce solicitor can make the process of serving court documents abroad more straightforward. They will gain a thorough understanding of your circumstances and recommend what they believe to be the best possible solution for you. Your lawyer should also have contacts in other jurisdictions who can assist with more complicated situations, such as having to locate your ex-partner.
Child Custody Matters
If there are children involved in the marriage, their needs and best interests will always be put first. Negotiating child arrangements in international divorce cases can be challenging, especially when one party wishes to take the children abroad to live with them. In cases such as this, entering into mediation may be a good idea to try and resolve matters.
You may also be concerned that your former spouse will attempt to take your children abroad to live without your consent, something known as child abduction. In these situations, there are various procedures you can put in place to avoid the situation and give you the peace of your mind you need. Your lawyer will be able to help set this in motion.
In high-net-worth divorce cases, international assets also often play a significant role, further complicating the separation of finances post-divorce. One key challenge arises from the need for the UK courts to enforce whatever order it makes. While the UK does have arrangements with many overseas jurisdictions to better facilitate this, it isn’t the case for all countries.
An additional complication arises if there are any suspicions of assets being hidden overseas by one party. In such cases where you suspect your former partner isn’t being totally honest with their financial disclosure, your solicitor, often with the help of an expert forensic accountant, can help address these concerns and ensure a fair resolution.
Disputes Over Jurisdiction
Should both parties be unable to agree on a jurisdiction, this could add considerable time to the international divorce process. For example, if one spouse wishes to divorce in England and Wales, while the other wants the case to be heard in Spain, any legal wrangling to establish jurisdiction will take a lot of time to resolve — and could prove extremely costly.
Lowry Legal: The International Divorce Specialist
If you’re trying to negotiate an international divorce, it’s important you seek legal advice from a solicitor who can deliver a bespoke solution while working tirelessly to achieve a swift and satisfactory solution for you. This is exactly what you can expect from Lowry Legal.
Our specialist international divorce team will gain a thorough understanding of your situation and your goals, before working with you to develop a tailor-made strategy designed to meet your objectives. We understand the process inside and out, and are aware of all the potential pitfalls which could arise. This enables us to minimise the chances of delays.
In addition, we have forged close working relationships with a number of third-party specialists such as forensic accountants and tax professionals. This enables us to provide you with a holistic service which takes absolutely everything into account — leaving you free to concentrate on your next chapter.