The rules governing which country may have jurisdiction to hear a divorce and the financial claims associated with it are complex. Most European countries are signatories to an international convention called Brussels II, which among other things, governs jurisdictional disputes on divorce. If there is a choice of jurisdiction (known as “forum shopping”) it is essential to seek early advice from us to identify where the divorce petition should be issued to protect your interests. Many of our clients are part of an international couple and may be able to get divorced in more than one country where they will receive a favourable associated financial settlement or order relating to arrangements for children. In such cases disputes can arise about whether the parties fulfil any of the criteria set out in Brussels II and specialist advice from the outset is essential. Time can be of the essence due to the strict application of the “first in time” rule, which means that the divorce will proceed in the country where the divorce papers were filed first.
In cases involving England and Wales and a non-European country the strict “first in time” rule does not apply, and the court will look at several factors when deciding where the divorce and associated financial proceedings should be dealt with. The broad test being a determination of the most convenient forum. To make this determination the court will consider very carefully all evidence of where the family’s centre of interest lies; where the assets are; where the family lives and any children are educated etc.
We are regularly instructed by clients who require urgent and specialist advice in the area of international and jurisdictional disputes.