The world is becoming a smaller place with ever greater opportunities for people to travel and work abroad. Increasing numbers of people are meeting and marrying someone from another country and as such, many families now have both a multicultural and an international dimension which would have been far less prevalent a decade ago.
If this family unit breaks down, there are a number of additional issues which can arise. Here are some of the ways an international dimension can have an impact on family breakdown:
1. It may be possible for divorce proceedings to be brought in more than one jurisdiction.
The choice of jurisdiction can have a significant impact on the outcome of divorce proceedings as different countries apply different sets of rules, especially when it comes to the division of assets. It may be financially advantageous to a spouse to issue proceedings in one jurisdiction rather than another. It is extremely important to seek legal advice about the different jurisdictional options at the very earliest stage as often the Court where proceedings are first issued will be the Court which ultimately decides the case.
2. There may be a limit in the Court’s power to enforce Orders in relation to property or assets in another jurisdiction.
On divorce, there may be a limit to what a Court can do in relation to assets held in another jurisdiction. For example, if a couple own a holiday home abroad, there may be difficulties in enforcing a Court order dealing with this foreign asset.
3. There may be issues regarding where the children should live in the future.
After the breakdown of a relationship, one parent may wish to move back to their country of origin with their children. However, if they do this without the consent of the other parent or permission from the Court, they could well be accused of abducting their child and proceedings could be brought for the return of the child to the place in which they had been living. Indeed, in some countries these actions could amount to a criminal offence. It is crucial that legal advice is taken so that you are fully informed before deciding how to proceed. It is also important if your child has been taken without consent that you take steps as soon as possible if you wish for them to be returned.
Could a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement help?
One way to try to avoid the uncertainty of what may happen should a relationship break down is to enter into an agreement while the relationship is working well. Whilst these agreements are regarded by some as unromantic, they are a practical way of agreeing what should happen if things don’t work out. Such an agreement could record what would happen to the assets following relationship breakdown. It could also record the parties’ intentions about the children such as where they would live, their maintenance and education. The agreement could also settle which Court would have legal jurisdiction if there is a dispute.
Many countries recognise pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements or at the very least take its terms into account when ascertaining what the parties’ intentions had been. It is important to find out if the jurisdiction in which you will be living would do so.