Divorcing in England and Wales after Overseas Marriage IS Possible


​You would be forgiven for believing that the place in which you marry has some relevance to the place in which you must divorce. The assumption that you have no choice in where to divorce and you must divorce in the country where the marriage took place is simply not true. The truth is that it does not matter where in the world you marry; if you or your spouse are residing in England and Wales, you may be entitled to divorce here. There is no connection between the place of marriage and where you might divorce.

 Under the laws of England and Wales, you can divorce in England and Wales providing you meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • ​Both you and your spouse are habitually resident in England or Wales; or
  • Your spouse is habitually resident in England or Wales; or
  • You were both last habitually resident in England or Wales and one of you continues to reside here; or
  • You are habitually resident in England or Wales and have been living here for at least one year immediately before the divorce application is issued; or
  • You and your spouse are both domiciled in England or Wales.

If none of these criteria is applicable, you may still be able to use the English courts to divorce, but only if no other court in an EU contracting state has jurisdiction AND if either you or your spouse are domiciled in England and Wales. However, relying on sole domicile alone will mean there are limitations on the financial claims the court can deal with.

There is a requirement for there to have been a legally valid marriage, and part of the divorce process may be to determine that the marriage was indeed lawful in the country in which the ceremony took place. Professional expert evidence from that country may be required where either you or your spouse is unclear on this. The requirements of a legal marriage will differ from county to country; some will require there to be a ceremony with both civil and religious elements; others require civil or religious ceremonies only; some places require that you have a certain number of witnesses in attendance or be conducted at an authorised place, etc. So long as your marriage is legally valid in the country in which it takes place, it will be recognised by the courts in England and Wales.

Jennifer Herbert, Family Senior Associate here at Pinney Talfourd has, in fact, represented a client in a situation where the alleged marriage did not meet the requirements of the country in which it took place; therefore, contested divorce proceedings were launched where the validity of marriage was in question. The proceedings were lengthy, costly and resulted in a 10 day final hearing at the High Court at which the client’s position – that there never was a valid marriage – was found to be true. It is therefore essential to know that your marriage was valid before embarking upon divorce proceedings. 

​In order to commence divorce proceedings in England and Wales, you will require your original marriage certificate along with a certified translation (if the marriage certificate is not written in English). If your marriage certificate is not in English and you intend to divorce in this country, you will need to obtain a certified translation to send to the Court. This is something a solicitor can arrange for you.

Law firms are increasingly finding that couples are choosing to marry overseas, or that they are married overseas before moving to settle in England and Wales. The freedom to divorce in England and Wales is, providing you meet the above criteria, is therefore very important for these couples.


If you were married overseas and are contemplating divorce, speak to one of our expert family lawyers for a free 30-minute consultation. please contact our Family Law department on 01708 229444 or email us using the form to the right.This article was written by Jennifer Herbert, Senior Associate at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of August 2018.


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