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International divorce and children issues

Increasingly, many couples have an international element to family breakdown as people move more freely and readily around the world than they have ever done before.

In the event of family breakdown, many have a strong desire to return ‘home’ to a support network of family and friends they may not have in this country. Whilst this may seem simple on the face of it, the legal repercussions of booking a flight and moving back with family can be costly and, if you have children, often deeply traumatic.

The financial settlement you may achieve in one country may be better than in another. You need expert legal advice about this and quickly.  In many cases a divorce can be started in more than one country, but there is a rule of EU law which dictates that the divorce which was commenced first will prevail.

Under English Law, if you have children and you want to relocate abroad you need the permission of everyone who has parental responsibility, or an Order of the English Court. Countries which are signatories to The Hague and European Conventions on Child Abduction will co-operate to ensure the return of children removed from England.  If children relocate without the permission of both parents to a country which is not a signatory to The Hague and European Conventions, the parent left behind often has the costly and problematic task of initiating court proceedings in a foreign country to try and seek the return of their children.

It is vital that you seek expert legal advice if there is an international element to your divorce.  Such advice may well prove to be money extremely well spent in terms of precautionary measures that can be taken to safeguard you financially, and the welfare of your children.

The recovery of child maintenance between countries is also complex.  An overseas order may have been made in your absence or you may need to seek a decrease in the order.  You may need to recover maintenance through an overseas court for your children.  Conventions determine what may and may not be recovered, and which court can vary orders.  We offer expert legal advice to help you through the complexities of international law.

For advice and support, please contact your Family Law Team on 0113 320 5000 or by email on

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