International Divorce Advice: The Complete Guide to Child Arrangements

An international city skyline - Ketley Miller Joels provide international family law advice

Divorce, when it involves assets and children is one thing, but add multiple countries into the equation and it becomes a whole other headache. Here’s our international family law advice for child arrangements when you live in different countries, to make it as simple as possible.

If you’re getting a divorce in London and splitting your one home into two, relocation of one party may become an issue. If you’re both planning on staying in London, your children will have nothing more than a trek across London each week or two to see their other parent. If it’s a different part of UK, then it’s still just a train journey. However, what if one parent wishes to return to their home country, or move to a different country for business or pleasure?

Hopefully, with the help of a family lawyer in London offering neutral advice, you can settle something that suits both parents and is in your child’s best interests. If your divorce is less than amicable, however, further complications may arise.

Is there a difference between EU and International divorces?

At least while Britain remains part of the European Union before Article 50 is triggered, EU regulations and the Hague Convention provide protection to keep children in their country of residence.

If and when Article 50 is triggered and the EU regulations put in place by Brussels are no longer there, there’s the risk that divorce within the EU will become expensive and time-consuming. Much like international divorce is at the moment, where the parents are moving between multiple divorce courts because there is no one overruling set of regulations, leaving you searching manically for the best divorce lawyers in London.

A recent, high-profile example of an international divorce with a childcare disagreement is Madonna’s from Guy Ritchie. This case was about whether their son Rocco should live with Madonna in America, or Guy Ritchie in London. Ordinarily, mothers have the advantage when childcare is battled out in a courtroom. However, relocation, especially across continents, can cause a lot of disruption to a child and may not be in their best interests.

In such cases, the divorce lawyer in London will have to be experienced in international divorce, as putting together an argument requires experience and knowledge of international laws.

Two children who have benefited from international family law advice

What if I settle in a foreign divorce court?

If you are expats living in a foreign country and divorcing, consider carefully whether you take your divorce to court in the UK or in your country of residence. For the partner who earns the lower income, it’s may be more beneficial to ensure the divorce takes place in the UK. As a result of the EU bringing Brussels II revised into place, an undignified ‘race for court’ is now common with couples divorcing out of the UK. This makes it even more important to get an early start and talk to a family lawyer in London the moment you become concerned that a divorce may be on the horizon.

If the divorce is settled in a foreign court, it can be detrimental to the mother if she wants to return to the UK at some stage with her children, as she finds out too late that the children are not under the legal jurisdiction of the UK court now being domiciled in that foreign country. Many expat women are losing their rights to their children this way, as unlike in the UK, where complex international divorces are moved up to higher courts, there are some foreign courts which keep divorces in local courtrooms. This leaves them subject to outdated opinions such as “a woman’s place is in the home”, or “a wife’s place is with her husband”. In the event that she has already left and moved back to her family, she can be regarded as abandoning her children and lose all rights to child care.

Before filing for divorce, make sure you talk to one of the best divorce lawyers in London about your legal rights and the best way for you to proceed. Even one small step in the wrong direction could have negative and long-lasting consequences further down the line. At KMJ, we have over a decade of experience handling complicated and sensitive cases and pride ourselves on our efficacy.

What if my partner abducts my child?

In the awful scenario that your child is abducted by your former partner, there are EU regulations in place, as well as the 1996 Hague convention, to provide you with some protection. Although child abduction may seem like something strange and foreign, there are hundreds of abductions in England and Wales every year.

In a 2000 report by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs, over 75% of kidnappings were shown to be by parents or acquaintances of the child, most commonly during a legal visit where the parent then absconds with their son or daughter. Of parental abductions, 70% of the time, it’s the mother who absconds with the child, usually back to her home country if she isn’t a British national.

Child abduction is a serious criminal matter and there are charities in place, as well as government-run organisations, to help you get your child home safely. Talking to a family lawyer in London with the expertise to act in emergency cases is also important, to make sure you’re doing everything within your power to ensure the return of your child.

If you are living abroad and considering a divorce, or if your children have been abducted or you’re concerned this may happen, call KMJ solicitors today, to set up a free, no-obligation consultation with one of the best divorce lawyers in London.

Clayton spent five years working in family law with a firm in Australia before moving to the UK in 1999. He deals with all aspects of family law, specialising in all family matters, offshore trusts, company structures, international law, prenuptial agreements, high net worth cases and cohabitation law.