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I Got Married Abroad, How Do I Get Divorced in England and Wales?

Getting married abroad can be an exciting and romantic experience, but if the relationship ends, you may find yourself asking, “I got married abroad, how do I get divorced?” Getting divorced in England and Wales when you were married in another country involves specific rules and procedures. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of navigating this situation, ensuring you understand the legal requirements and steps involved.

Understanding the Rules for Getting a Divorce if You Married Abroad

Before you can initiate a divorce in England and Wales, you must meet the following essential rules:

  1. Duration of Marriage: You must have married abroad at least one year ago.
  2. Domicile and Habitual Residence: Even though you married abroad, at least one of you must be domiciled in England and Wales or have been habitually resident in England and Wales for at least six months before filing for divorce. Essentially, this means England or Wales is the permanent home for one of you.

What You Need to Get a Divorce if You Married Abroad

To get a divorce in England and Wales, you must have the following:

  1. Marriage Certificate: You will need your original marriage certificate. You must provide a certified translation if it is in a foreign language. The court is very strict on translations and requires an English translation with a letter certified by the translator. Most translation companies provide certification at the company level, so ensure you get a letter from the individual translator. Submitting a company-certified translation will result in the court rejecting your divorce application.
  1. Address for Your Ex-Spouse: You must provide a current address for your ex-spouse to serve the divorce papers. The court needs to be satisfied that your spouse is aware that you want a divorce, which is confirmed through the acknowledgment of service process. Your spouse must acknowledge receipt of the divorce papers online. If they don’t, the court cannot proceed with the divorce.

What to Do If You Don’t Have Your Marriage Certificate

If you cannot locate your marriage certificate, contact the registrar’s office in the country where you were married to obtain a copy. Each country has procedures for issuing a replacement certificate. If you encounter difficulties, the British Embassy in that country might offer assistance.

A good start is to Google ‘marriage certificate copy’ and the country where you got married, for example, ‘marriage certificate copy USA’. You will then be presented with various agencies—some that cover the entire country and others that are county-specific, such as Clark County, which covers Las Vegas, the wedding capital of the world.

Is a Foreign Marriage Recognised in the UK?

In most cases, a foreign marriage is recognised in the UK as long as it is legally valid in the country where the marriage took place. This means that the marriage followed the local laws and customs of that country. Countries have different marriage requirements, such as residency, blood tests, or waiting periods. It’s important to research and comply with the laws of the country where you married to ensure your marriage is legally valid.

How to Check if Your Marriage is Recognised in the UK

If you married overseas, you might wonder whether your marriage is recognised in the UK. The UK recognises legally valid marriages in the country where they took place, provided they are also valid under UK law. For example, if you got married in a country where the legal age of marriage is 15, your marriage would not be recognised in the UK as the legal age of marriage here is 16.

The Divorce Process in England and Wales

The divorce process in England and Wales generally follows these steps:

  1. Filing a Divorce Petition: Start by filing a divorce application with the court, confirming that your marriage has irretrievably broken down.
  2. Serving the Petition: The petition must be served to your ex-spouse, who then has a chance to respond.
  3. Acknowledgement of Service: Your ex-spouse must acknowledge receipt of the petition.
  4. Conditional Order: If the court is satisfied with the information provided, it will issue a Conditional Order, a provisional order stating that the court sees no reason why you cannot divorce.
  5. Final Order: Six weeks after the Conditional Order, you can apply for your Final Order, which legally ends the marriage.

Can Your Spouse Defend Against Your Divorce if You Married Abroad?

The fact that you got married abroad in itself does not provide any grounds to defend against your divorce. Also, since the introduction of the no-fault divorce law in April 2022, a spouse can no longer defend against a divorce. Previously, you had to blame your spouse for certain behaviours such as adultery or prove that you’d been separated for at least two years (if your spouse agreed to the divorce) or five years if they disagreed. This allowed difficult spouses to frustrate the divorce process.

Thankfully, the no-fault divorce has eliminated this issue. You no longer have to accuse your spouse of anything or prove separation. Now, you simply need to state that you believe the marriage has broken down. Your spouse’s only possible defence is that the courts in England and Wales do not have jurisdiction.

What is Jurisdiction in Divorce?

Jurisdiction means that the courts in England and Wales have the power to make a legal decision or judgment. For the English court to grant you a divorce, England and Wales must be the permanent home of at least one of you, or the divorce proceedings must not have started in another country with jurisdiction. For example, if you married in America and your spouse still lives there and has begun proceedings, the English court may not have jurisdiction.

Difficulties with Ex-Spouses Living Abroad

If your ex-spouse lives in a foreign country and is uncooperative, or you do not know their whereabouts, your divorce becomes very complicated. Here’s how to handle these situations:

  1. Uncooperative Ex-Spouse: If an uncooperative spouse lives in England and Wales, you can use a bailiff to serve the papers so that the court knows that they are aware of the divorce and are simply trying to frustrate the divorce process. This is more difficult if your spouse is in a foreign country. In this situation, it is a good idea to make contact with your spouse or perhaps use family members or mutual friends to help you reach an agreement.
  1. Unknown Whereabouts: If you do not know where your ex-spouse lives, you must show the court that you have made reasonable efforts to locate them. This might involve hiring a private investigator or using social media. If unsuccessful, you can apply to the court to continue your divorce without their involvement—known as “dispense with service.” However, this should be a last resort because it’s not an easy route, as the court must be satisfied that you have done everything possible to locate them.

Summary and Key Takeaways

Navigating a divorce when you were married abroad can be challenging, but with the right information and support, it is manageable. Ensure you have your marriage certificate, certified translation, and current address for your ex-spouse. For the quickest and most cost-efficient divorce, we recommend reaching an agreement with your spouse.

If you are in agreement, Easy Online Divorce is here to support you through this process, offering affordable and accessible services to minimise the financial and emotional impact on your family.

  • No-Fault Divorce Service: At Easy Online Divorce, we offer an individual no-fault divorce service for £299. This service is perfect if both parties agree on the divorce.
  • Amicable Couples Divorce Service: If you would like us to work with both of you, we have our amicable couples’ divorce service for £599.

By understanding the rules and following the steps outlined, you can navigate the divorce process with confidence and ease. Let us help you navigate this challenging time with confidence and peace of mind. Click here to start your divorce today, or book a free consultation here.

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