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23 May 2023

Family & Matrimonial

Can You Get Divorced In The UK If Married Abroad?

If you've been married abroad, you might not know how this can complicate divorce proceedings.

Can you get divorced in the UK if married abroad?

Can You Get Divorced In The UK If Married Abroad?

Divorce is an emotional and unsettling time for anyone, but when you have eloped somewhere abroad to get married, it can feel all the more complicated when a marriage breaks down. 

Destination weddings are highly popular, and a question that likely will have crossed your mind if you had one is: Can you get divorced in the UK if married abroad?

It’s important to note that divorce laws differ between countries in the UK. However, as the law in both England and Wales are the same, this article will only cover this jurisdiction. 

In short, yes, the Court has the ability to issue a divorce or dissolution for the majority of marriages and civil partnerships that have taken place abroad. As such, the marriage wouldn’t have needed to take place in England or Wales in order for you to get a divorce. 

That said, there are circumstances where becoming divorced in England and Wales becomes more complicated if you were married abroad, which is why it’s important to seek legal advice from divorce solicitors

These circumstances include:

  1. You don’t have a marriage certificate 
  2. The marriage certificate is not written in English 
  3. The UK doesn’t recognise the marriage as legal
  4. The couple doesn’t have a sufficient connection to the UK

1. You Don’t Have A Marriage Certificate 

The first circumstance that can complicate divorce proceedings is if you don’t have a marriage certificate.

A marriage abroad might have been a planned or spontaneous affair, particularly with the rise in Vegas weddings following the disruption of 2020. Whether you got married abroad spontaneously or weren’t organised enough, you might have lost the marriage certificate.

Although it’s a relatively straightforward process to obtain marriage certificates from the relevant registry office when you’re married in the UK, this can be a much more complicated process in a foreign country. 

Depending on the country in which you got married, it might be challenging or impossible to obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate, so it’s important to enlist the help of a solicitor to find out the next steps.

2. The Marriage Certificate Is Not Written In English

Another circumstance where divorce proceedings are more complicated in England and Wales is if the marriage certificate isn’t written in English.

While this isn’t an unsurmountable issue, it does make the process of divorce more complicated.  

As such, you’ll be required to obtain a certified translation of the marriage certificate in order to have the Court issue a divorce.

Not only will this come at an additional cost to you but it can also be challenging to find depending on the country where you got married.

3. The UK Doesn’t Recognise The Marriage As Legal

A divorce in either England or Wales relies on the UK recognising the marriage in question as legal. 

This is a complicated process, but generally speaking, your marriage will be recognised as legal in the UK if:

  • It would be allowed under UK law
  • You followed the correct process in the country where you were married 

If your marriage isn’t recognised as legal in the UK, then, you cannot get a divorce.

However, a family law solicitor will be able to help you understand the next steps clearly, so it’s important that you seek legal advice. 

4. The Couple Doesn’t Have A Sufficient Connection To The UK

Lastly, if the couple in question doesn’t have a sufficient connection to the UK, then it will be more difficult to get a divorce.

There are numerous ways to prove this, but the divorcing couple must be able to satisfy a minimum of one of the following:

  • The divorcing couple are habitually resident in England and Wales.
  • The divorcing couple are domiciled in England and Wales.
  • One party is habitually resident in England and Wales.
  • The divorcing couple were last habitually resident in England and Wales, and one party still lives there.
  • One party is habitually resident in England and Wales and has been for a minimum of 1 year.
  • One party is habitually resident in England and Wales, has resided in England and Wales for 6 months and is also domiciled in England and Wales

As each case is different, the best course of action is to seek legal advice and support regarding your divorce.

How We Can Help 

At Harding Evans, our team of experienced divorce solicitors in Cardiff and Newport recognise that getting divorced is an emotionally challenging experience. 

As well as being experts in the legal aspects of divorce, we will also deal with your case with sensitivity to support you through this turbulent time.

Get in touch with a member of our team today to find out how we can help you.

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