International family law

Many families facing divorce find that there is an international element. For example, one of you might be eligible to divorce in England and a different jurisdiction – and where you choose could have a big impact on your settlement. That’s where we come in.

International family law – technical expertise and experience

Different countries have very different approaches to divorce and family law. Sometimes it is possible to divorce both in England and in a different jurisdiction, and it may be more advantageous to have your divorce dealt with in one country rather than the other. Much depends upon where you live, where you have a home, and where you were born.

For example, if a wife divorces in France or Scotland, she may only get two to three years of maintenance. By contrast, in England she may be entitled to maintenance for the rest of her life.

Similarly, what happens if a family relocates, and one parent does not want the children to move? Or what if your family owns properties or businesses in several different countries? Timing can also be critical, and filing for divorce in one country before another can be decisive, particularly in Europe.

You need the best advice to help you navigate this highly complex area. Knowing who to approach in other jurisdictions – and having those personal relationships – can be as important as knowing the law, especially when dealing with urgent or highly complex cases.

Our family lawyers

  • All of our 29 family lawyers nationally are used to dealing with cases involving international families and international assets. 
  • Six of the partners in our family law team are Fellows of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, which is the kite mark for excellence in dealing with international family law matters. Fellows are elected by their peers, nationally and internationally, as being experienced experts in this area. 
  • Our family solicitors can also call on the international expertise of our specialist commercial, corporate and tax lawyers when dealing with complex cases in different jurisdictions. This is not a resource that is available to niche practices.

Our experience

  • We have extensive experience helping clients with international family law issues. A few examples include the following: 
  • We were instructed by Australian lawyers to act for their client. He was involved in English Children Act proceedings issued by the mother of their daughter. There was an Australian Child Support Act Agreement. The argument centred on whether the English proceedings were valid. Because of our intervention, the English proceedings were withdrawn. 
  • We were instructed in a complex pre-marital agreement with international aspects, including choice of jurisdiction and election of a Swiss property regime. We advised the wife to be. The work was undertaken in a very short space of time, and involved assets worth tens of millions of pounds.
  • We acted on behalf of an English father who successfully resisted an application for his children to live permanently in the USA. 
  • Our family lawyers are often asked to issue divorce proceedings in England in order to establish jurisdiction here, so that the English Courts can deal with the financial aspects. 
  • We were instructed in a case involving international trusts and a complex corporate structure, which involved separate proceedings in offshore jurisdictions, as well as in the English High Court. The claim was one of the largest ever brought in this country. 
  • We have particular expertise in arranging for pensions to be divided in this jurisdiction, where the divorce takes place abroad. This is highly technical legal work, for which we have a national reputation.

Our clients 

  • We are frequently instructed by international families in the preparation of pre-nuptial agreements, where the wealth may be owned in more than one jurisdiction. 
  • Many of our clients are foreign nationals who work in this country, who instruct us to advise as to the consequences here – so they can compare the advantages or disadvantages of divorcing here, as against their country of origin. 
  • Many clients are able to divorce in more than one jurisdiction, looking to us to assessing which is the most advantageous jurisdiction and issue divorce proceedings in the chosen jurisdiction. 
  • We are frequently instructed by Fellows of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Lawyers in other jurisdictions are happy to recommend us to their own clients, to provide advice and support for them in England.

What our clients and others say about us

Our family solicitors are regarded nationally as market leaders. We are highly rated for family law in both Chambers UK and Legal 500 directories, following independent research. Comments about our family lawyers from peers and clients include the following: 

  • “The lawyers advise clients on high value financial and childcare arrangements, many of which contain cross-border elements. ‘They’re at the forefront of what they do’, say sources.” Chambers UK
  • “… ‘is at the top of the tree when it comes to pensions and international work,’ according to sources.” Chambers UK
  • “… is a formidable lawyer for matrimonial finance cases, especially as those involving significant business assets or international elements. Sources say ‘he is very intellectual – his ability to present cases is second to none’.” Chambers UK 
  • “Sources say ‘[Mills & Reeve] offers the expertise and quality you would expect from the likes of big London firms, but at significantly more attractive hourly rates’.” Chambers UK

Legal resources you may find useful

  • international divorce – our unique family law website offers free guidance and video, including information on international divorce. 
  • International Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements – joint author David Salter. 
  • Family Law Hub – this is a groundbreaking knowhow base available for subscription online. It contains Mills & Reeve’s knowhow and legal research, together with video content on legal topics.