International Aspects

In modern society it is not uncommon for spouses to have different nationalities or to have been married, lived or worked in different countries.

This can lead to there being a choice as to the country in which proceedings for divorce can be commenced.

Divorce laws in England differ to other countries within the European Union and elsewhere in the world. Often divorce proceedings commenced in England can result in a more favourable outcome.

It is important to seek advice at an early stage to be sure that you commence proceedings in the right country for you. This will involve considering timescales, costs, financial settlements and child care arrangements.  The implications of choosing the wrong forum for you can extend to property settlements and maintenance. Divorces obtained in some countries may not even be recognised as valid in England and Wales.

Within the European Union (except Denmark), time is of the essence with regard to choice of jurisdiction. The country in which proceedings are first brought will have exclusive jurisdiction.

Elsewhere in the world, if proceedings have been issued in one country, it may be possible to issue proceedings in a second country and apply for the first set of proceedings to be stayed if it can be argued that the second jurisdiction would be more appropriate. However, even in non-EU cases the proceedings that were first in time will often be a very persuasive argument.

At Vanderpump and Sykes we can help you identify the various countries that might accept jurisdiction of your divorce proceedings and help you weigh up the practical, legal and financial considerations that are involved in deciding where to commence proceedings for divorce. Often this will involve seeking legal advice from a family lawyer overseas. We can act quickly to ensure that you make the most appropriate decision for you and ensure that if you do decide to commence proceedings in England and Wales, that divorce proceedings are issued swiftly to secure the most appropriate jurisdiction for your divorce.


The breakdown of a relationship involving parents who are, or are going to be living in different countries can be an incredibly difficult situation to manage especially at a time when emotions are running high. Our specialist family team can provide you with practical guidance and support and have the necessary expertise to act in an emergency when required.

Child Abduction – Prevention

We can assist you in obtaining a range of orders in circumstances where you have concerns that your child is about to be removed from the country without your consent. Those remedies include:-

  • All Ports Warning – a remedy to alert major ferry ports and airport terminals as to the possible threat of abduction.
  • Prohibited Steps Order – a court order preventing the removal of a child from the jurisdiction or from the carer parent's control.
  • A Specific Issue Order – a court order concerning a specific step eg. requiring the surrender of a passport.
  • A Residence Order – is a court order settling a child's living arrangements.
  • A Seek and Find Order – an emergency order issued by the court requiring appropriate officials to search for and locate a child within England and Wales.
  • An Order for Disclosure of a Child's Whereabouts – this is a court order requiring any third party/official to attend court and provide information to the court that may lead to locating a child's whereabouts.
  • Wardship Proceedings – an application to court to make the child a ward of court ie. giving the court temporary parental responsibility in respect of the child.

Often there are many practical steps that can be taken to prevent such a situation occurring. Practical guidance can also be obtained from Reunite which is the leading international charity on international child abduction.

Steps to be taken if your child has been abducted

If you have reason to believe that your child has been abducted, the steps to be taken will depend upon whether the child has been taken to a country which subscribes to the Hague Convention. If you believe that your child has been taken to a country which subscribes to the Hague Convention, we will help you complete an urgent application to the International Child Abduction Unit who will liaise with the Central Authority in the country where the child is thought to have been taken in order for steps to be taken to recover a child who has been wrongfully removed.

There are lots of practical tips and guidance that can be obtained from the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit.

If your child has been taken to  a non-Hague Convention country then we can help you to seek legal advice from a lawyer specialising in local laws in the country where the child is thought to have been taken.  We will also liaise with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on your behalf in order to assist you take steps to recover your child.

If you wish to take your child to live abroad

If you want to relocate to another country with your child, it is important to seek our advice about the implications of such actions. Removing a child from their country of residence without proper consent or approval may constitute child abduction which is a criminal offence carrying with it a possible prison sentence.

It will often be necessary to make an application to court for permission to move overseas. If the application is opposed by the other parent, a detailed consideration of the application will be undertaken by the court which will involve looking at your future plans for the chid, your motivations for the move, the child's wishes and feelings and what plans are in place to ensure that the child will maintain a relationship with the other parent.

Contact with a child overseas

If your child is already living abroad, the steps that can be taken to secure contact will depend on where the child is living.

If you have an existing contact order in place and your child is living in an EU country (excluding Denmark) then we can advise you whether or not it is possible to enforce the contact order in that country.

An EU country excluding Denmark

If there is no contact order in place, you may still be able to make an application for contact under the Hague Convention.

A Hague Convention country outside the EU

If your child is living in a Hague Convention country outside the European Union then it may not be possible to enforce an existing contact order but an application can still be made under the Hague Convention for a contact order.

Outside the European Union – non-Hague Convention country

In such circumstances, often the only way to secure contact is by making an application to court in the country where the child is living, we can help you seek advice from a specialist family lawyer with expertise of local laws to assist you in securing contact. In all cases concerning contact with a child overseas, the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit can provide practical assistance.