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Divorce in London: more tips and pitfalls for Russian Londoners

Posted: 28/02/2020

Some of London’s biggest divorce cases have involved Russian couples, with eye watering amounts – (in the billions of pounds) – and legal fees to match. The divorce process can be long, stressful and expensive. This series of short family law articles from the firm’s Russia/CIS desk is intended to help separated couples get ahead and avoid ‘War and Peace’.

Can you divorce in England if you get married in Russia?

Fairytales end with Happily ever after’ however, in our modern world, where almost half of marriages end in divorce, it is vital to know your legal rights, just in case. But can you obtain a divorce and seek the assistance of the English courts to protect those rights if you were married in Russia?

You can put your mind at ease and carry on with planning your wedding irrespective of whether it will take place in Russia, England, or the Bahamas because the English courts will recognise a foreign marriage, provided it is valid in the country it is celebrated. For a marriage in Russia to be recognised in England, it must comply with the formalities in Russia. You don’t need to register it again here.

If the worst comes to the worst, which country will deal with your divorce and financial provision? This will depend on which countries have jurisdiction to consider your application:

  • You can generally only apply for divorce in England if you or your soon-to-be-ex pass the tests of living here (‘habitual residence’) for a specified period or having your permanent home (‘domicile’) here. There are some complex rules around jurisdiction in England and Wales so legal advice to determine what is possible at the outset is vital.
  • It is a much simpler question whether you can get a divorce in Russia. If you or your spouse are a Russian national, you can divorce in Russia. If you or your spouse is a foreign national, the Russian court will have jurisdiction provided one of you is resident in Russia or the respondent spouse has a property in Russia.

If both England and Russia can deal with your case and there are simultaneous proceedings in both countries, the English court can suspend (‘stay’) the case in favour of a Russian divorce. In contrast to where you marry, where you divorce can make a big difference to the financial outcome, as the English court is normally much more generous to the weaker financial spouse.

What do you do if your now ex-spouse has obtained a Russian divorce, before you could apply to court in England? If you or your ex-spouse have sufficient connections to England, you may still have rights for financial provision in England after a Russian divorce provided certain criteria are met, which will be explained in the next article in this series. Seeking advice at an early stage reduces the risk of delays that may weaken or defeat your claims.

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