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It has recently been reported that Princess Tessy of Luxembourg has launched divorce proceedings against her husband, Prince Louis. Interestingly, the Princess opted for England as her jurisdiction of choice for the proceedings even though neither Princess Tessy nor Prince Louis are British citizens. This illustrates two key points regarding divorce settlements in the courts of England and Wales. The first is that England remains a very favourable jurisdiction for divorce settlements for the stay-at-home wife or financially weaker spouse. The second is that individuals can instigate divorce proceedings in England and Wales even if they are not citizens or their marriage took place abroad.

England as a “divorce capital” for the financially weaker spouse

England is often cited as the “divorce capital” of the world. A key reason behind this is because English courts hold that there should be no distinction drawn between contributions made by the breadwinner and homemaker. Legally, this means that non-financial contributions are not seen as subordinate to financial contributions in the court’s assessment of the division of assets upon divorce. The starting point for the court when considering a financial order is the principle of equality, which states that both parties should be left in a similar financial position following divorce having regard to their individual circumstances and earning capacities. Only in exceptional cases can a spouse successfully argue they have made a “special contribution” to the marriage and are deserving of a greater share of the matrimonial finances.

This approach is naturally more favourable to the financially weaker spouse whose contribution to the marriage may be that of a homemaker as opposed to the breadwinner.

This is likely behind the desire of Princess Tessy as the financially weaker spouse to undertake divorce proceedings in England, as she is likely to secure a more generous settlement here than if the case was to be heard elsewhere.

How foreign individuals can commence divorce proceedings in England and Wales

Separating couples who have connections to different countries may have a choice as to where to commence divorce proceedings. Connections can include the fact that they have lived for some or all of their married life in another country, for example England or Wales. This means that even if the parties are not British citizens or the marriage took place elsewhere, the divorce may indeed take place in England, provided jurisdictional criteria are met.

In this case, although Princess Tessy and Prince Louis are not British, Princess Tessy’s ability to claim for divorce proceedings in England is because the couple are currently based in London and are therefore domiciled here: they moved to Kensington and both their children attended a boarding school there. The domicile of either of the parties in England could give rise to a petition for divorce being successfully issued here.

However, it is important to note that the court may look at a wide range of factors in determining whether to hear the case. If proceedings could possibly take place in multiple jurisdictions, the country in which proceedings are first issued will have full jurisdiction in the entire divorce.

How Grayfords can help

What the above highlights is how choosing a jurisdiction for divorce can have potentially significant bearings on the final outcome of a case and that England is seen as an attractive jurisdiction for the financially weaker spouse.

Often, depending on the circumstances, much depends on the choice of the first person to issue divorce proceedings as the court becomes “seized” of jurisdiction to the exclusion of all others. Different jurisdictions often have different approaches to divorce and procedures can vary from country to country. It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible if you believe there may be a choice of jurisdiction in your case.

Grayfords, a renowned firm for international divorce, is well-positioned to advise you if there is a choice and, if so, which jurisdiction would be most favourable in your case.

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