In recent years, the UK has gained a reputation for being the global capital for divorce, and it seems that this position has become further established.
According to a report by The Times, the UK courts have seen a significant increase in the number of divorce cases involving international clients (or other elements) over the past year alone. International divorce cases are now thought to account for approximately one sixth of divorce cases brought before the court in England and Wales (24,000 of the 150,000 divorces).
In addition, up to 50% of so-called “big money’ divorces in London involve foreign nationals.
The increase in the upward mobility of both the UK population and those originally residing in other countries goes some way to explaining the increase; UK citizens who have moved abroad or foreign nationals who have settled in the UK will likely both utilise the court system in England and Wales.
There is a suggestion, however, that more and more people from outside the UK are seeking a divorce in the courts here due to judicial discretion, which plays a significant role in the family legal system in England and Wales. A financially ‘weaker’ spouse can find that the Courts in England and Wales treat them more favourably than in their home country, taking into account factors which may be ignored or discounted in other jurisdictions. As a result, in some cases, foreign nationals are even going to the lengths of moving to the UK for a year in order to issue divorce proceedings here – a process sometimes referred to as ‘divorce tourism’.
Despite the reputation of the UK as having a lenient approach to divorce settlements, particularly in the case of wives, it should be noted that Court of Appeal will avoid overturning any rulings made in foreign jurisdictions, unless in the most exceptional of circumstances.
By Antonia Love, UK Divorce Lawyer