International family law

It is increasingly common for a divorce or relationship breakdown to involve more than one country. For international families, there can be additional legal and practical issues to deal with.

Whether you are at the start or the end of a relationship, it is important to get advice and guidance from a specialist international family lawyer early on if you or your partner:

  • Live or work abroad
  • Were married (or divorced) overseas
  • Have moved to the UK with your family
  • Own property in another country
  • Are thinking about relocating 

Separating couples who have more than one nationality, or who live or work in different countries, may have a choice about where they can divorce or where any disagreements regarding arrangements for their children and their finances can be resolved. This is important to consider carefully with the help of expert international family lawyers because family law varies greatly between countries. Choosing the right place to deal with any dispute in a divorce can have an enormous impact on the outcome.

But international family law is not just about the end of a relationship – it is also about the start of one and building a family along the way. Many international families will come from countries where prenuptial agreements and marital property regimes are common, and they need advice on what the legal position is here. 

Another major life decision we help our clients with, which can be affected by international family law, is surrogacy. People living in, or from, the UK may choose to enter into a surrogacy arrangement overseas and need advice on how to ensure that they are legally recognised as their child’s parents here in the UK. 


Our lawyers

Our international family lawyers advise clients across the globe on a wide range of issues including pre-marital agreements, divorce and separation, children arrangements and financial arrangements. Our team includes four Fellows of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, a worldwide association of family lawyers who are recognised by their peers as the most experienced and skilled family law specialists in their country.

Crucially, we have a worldwide network of foreign lawyers, contacts and best friend firms who can work with us to offer specialist support and expertise, enabling us to provide a seamless service. 


Our recent work includes: 

  • Coordinating advice for a client who had the option of divorcing in three European countries, making best use of our international family law network.
  • Preparing a pre-nuptial agreement for a wealthy client where – if a divorce were to happen – it could take place in several countries across several continents, all with vastly different outcomes.
  • Successfully arguing that divorce and financial proceedings should take place in England (and not Indonesia) resulting in our client receiving a more generous financial settlement.
  • Advising an Australian couple who were living together under a de facto marriage under Australian law on the legal status of their relationship under English law after they had relocated to England.
  • Drafting an English pre-nuptial agreement for a British entrepreneur whose fiancée was from one EU country and they were going to live in another. We worked closely with family lawyers from those two other jurisdictions to ensure the agreement would work in all three jurisdictions.
  • Acting for grandparents based in England whose grandchildren were the subject of care proceedings and would be placed overseas.
  • Acting for parents who had had a child through a surrogacy arrangement in California, ensuring that all nationality and immigration issues were dealt with in the four countries with which the family had ties.

In international family law, issues often arise relating to things such as immigration, questions about property situated here or abroad, as well as succession or tax planning. We work closely with our colleagues across Mills & Reeve who are experts in these areas to ensure that our clients benefit from straightforward, practical advice that cuts through the complexities.


What you need to know


Frequently Asked Questions


Videos from our international family lawyers

In this vlog, Caitlin Jenkins, the familylawvlogger, introduces her Mills & Reeve colleague Amy Starnes, one of the specialist children law experts at Mills & Reeve. They discuss Amy's particular area of expertise in advising clients where one of the parents wishes to relocate to another country with the child or children, and the other parent wants the child or children to remain living with them in England & Wales.

More videos from our legal experts...

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