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Insights // 27 September 2021

Overseas Divorce, Annulment or Legal Separation

Tasha Bevan-Stewart and Natasha Hood, in our Family Law team, take a look at how overseas divorces, annulments or legal separations are treated in the UK. 

England and Wales will recognise any divorce, annulment or legal separation obtained in any part of the British Isles or any other part of the United Kingdom which was granted by a civil court.

But the recognition of divorces, annulments or legal separations from outside the British Isles is more complicated. An overseas divorce will be recognised in England and Wales in one of two ways.

The first test for recognition in England and Wales is known as the “proceedings” test. The “proceedings” test has two requirements. The first requirement is that the divorce, annulment or legal separation was effective (following any required proceedings) under the law of the country in which it was obtained. The second requirement is that at the time of the divorce, annulment or legal separation either party to the marriage was:

  • was habitually resident in the country in which the divorce, annulment or legal separation was obtained; or
  • was domiciled in that country; or
  • was a national of that country.

You are habitually resident in the country where you have established a permanent home or where you spend most of your time. Whereas, you are domiciled in the country of your permanent home or to which you intend to return.

If your divorce, annulment or legal separation does not meet the requirements of “proceedings” test,  then you must look at the second test for recognition. The second test for recognition is for a divorce, annulment or legal separation obtained other than by proceedings. The first requirement is that the divorce, annulment or legal separation was effective under the law of the country in which it was obtained. The second requirement is that at the time of the divorce, annulment or legal separation one or both of the parties is domiciled in that country and neither party was habitually resident in the United Kingdom within 1 year of the application for the divorce, annulment or legal separation.

If your overseas divorce, annulment or legal separation does not meet either of the tests it will not be recognised in England and Wales. Should you wish to remarry in England and Wales you will first need to obtain a valid divorce or annulment. You may find our blog article, 'Are Foreign Marriages Recognised in the UK?' of interest. For further information about applying for a Divorce in England and Wales please see our blog article,  ‘A Helpful Guide to Divorce’.

For further information or legal advice, please contact law@blandy.co.uk or call 0118 951 6800. 

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.

Tasha Bevan-Stewart

Tasha Bevan-Stewart

Partner, Family Law

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Natasha Hood

Natasha Hood

Trainee Solicitor

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