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An International Divorce

Wendy is living in Spain and her husband, Harry, is living in England. She wishes to start a divorce. What should she do?

Wendy and Harry are married but have recently separated. They have two children aged 9 and 5. Wendy lives in Spain with the children and Harry has returned to live in England. The family home is located in Spain and they also have a house in England which used to be the old family home. Harry has a successful business which supplies parts to IT companies worldwide. Wendy works part time at the children’s school. She has supported Harry in his business since it started up about 10 years ago. The standard of living has been very good and the couple also have a number of savings, investments and pensions.

The first step should be to seek legal advice from a specialist in international family law (by visiting this site- This must be done as soon as possible. Wendy needs to consider the following points by way of example:

  1. There are two potential jurisdictions: England and Spain. Wendy will need advice about whether or not she can start a divorce in each jurisdiction. In this example, it would seem that she could even though she is not living in England. This is because Harry is living in England.
  2. Legal advice must then be obtained in each jurisdiction so that Wendy can compare the financial outcomes and choose the jurisdiction which best suits her case. There can sometimes be a stark difference between the financial outcomes in two different countries.
  3. Having done that, divorce proceedings must be started straight away and proper steps taken to serve Harry. England and Spain are part of the European Union. There are EU rules which state, in effect, that the first person to start a divorce in an EU state (except for Denmark) claims jurisdiction and the case must proceed in that country. This means that Wendy must ‘win the race’ to start her divorce. The case will then proceed in her chosen country. To put it another way, if she delays and Harry gets his divorce in first and in his chosen country then the case will proceed there and Wendy will not be able to do anything about it (except for potentially challenging jurisdiction if Harry has not claimed it properly). This can have a significant impact on the type of settlement Wendy can expect to receive.
  4. Wendy will also need to consider and ask questions not only about the type of settlement she can expect but, for example, what type of financial disclosure can she obtain in each country, how far will the Courts investigate matters (for example if Harry starts to hide assets), will the business be valued, can she get a share of the pension, what powers of enforcement are there if Harry does not comply with any Court Order and so on.
  5. There are also separate issues relating to the children. Wendy and Harry may be able to agree this directly but if there is a dispute it would seem that on this case the Spanish Courts would have sole jurisdiction to deal with the Children even if there is an English divorce. This is because the children are living in Spain.

For advice or an informal chat please contact James Maguire by telephone + 44 (0)161 428 0489 or by email at

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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