By Frank Arndt
THE number of British families moving abroad is increasing every year, be it to Australia, Canada to Spain… but what should you consider before making the leap? And what if it doesn’t work out?
Some couples find living abroad puts an additional strain on their relationship, while cross-cultural marriages often come with their own distinct set of challenges.
In some cases, problems which have not been resolved before the move become even bigger when living abroad.
International family law cases are complex and each case is unique. So prepare for your particular circumstances in advance and make sure that you are not stranded on the Great Barrier Reef or become sleepless in Sevilla.
- Put your children first
Make sure you have spoken about arrangements for the children. Consider what should happen if you decide that staying with the children in the foreign country is not for you. Agree in writing beforehand that your partner will consent to your return home with the children if your relationship runs into difficulties. Without such consent it is most likely that you would need court permission to return with the children. Don’t act impulsively. Contact an international family lawyer who has experience in cases like yours. Make sure the lawyer speaks your language and he/she has an international network, especially if you need to issue proceedings in more than one country. Don’t just hope that your spouse will agree to let you leave the new country and will not start child abduction and even criminal proceedings against you.
- Living in different countries
If you and your spouse decide to live in different countries following your separation, international issues will have to be addressed about where and with whom the children will live, and arrangements put in place for contact between the children and their ‘non-resident’ parent. In our experience International Mediation experts are extremely effective in helping to resolve these issues. Just remember to put the interest of the children first.
- Prepare pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements
More and more spouses are considering pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements. If you have already a pre-nup, review it. Does it cover you if you move abroad? Has the agreement identified in which country you wish to deal with your divorce and which law should be applied? Have you given consideration as to how your pre-nup might vary abroad? How will capital, spousal, children maintenance and pension arrangements be taken into account? All these can vary from country to country. Did you have special foreign legal advice when you signed your pre-nup? It is essential to seek advice before you go.
- International jurisdictional issues
Within the EU we have more and more established rules in place. But what if you move outside the EU or perhaps if you move between several different countries but still keep a house or other property in Britain? These factors can influence the jurisdiction of any proceedings. Each case is different and extremely fact sensitive. All relevant factors in your case have to be taken into account. The following list is far from exhaustive:
. Are you leasing the property abroad/at home?
. What is your immigration position abroad?
. Are your job skills only deployable in a certain country?
. What has been said to friends / family / tax authorities / anyone?
. Where are the bank accounts / credit cards / charge cards or other accounts and what address has been given to the bank?
- Time is of the essence
If there is a choice between two EU member states, then the court in which the proceedings are first issued will then deal with the proceedings. This can come down to the time of day the proceedings are issued, not just the date. So don’t delay take immediate legal advice.