I am an expat. Will that make my separation harder?

separation for expats

By cropped Clara Suki

· Read time: 4 minutes

Relationship breakdowns that occur overseas can be more complex as the laws the host country and their citizenship country may need to both be considered. This means that it is important to seek legal advice to ascertain the best way forward. 

Residing overseas

Many families decide to move overseas and be expatriates for a variety of reasons. Some include: 

  • For a parent’s career
  • Returning to an individual’s home country to be closer to family
  • For other personal or family related reasons. 

If you are seeking a divorce 

Often an individual seeking a divorce when they are living abroad will have to seek legal advice in both Australia and their host country. This is particularly important if there are children involved in the relationship. This is because the laws regarding relocation of children can be complex and different in each country. The rules and regulations associated with court procedures and filing applications may also be different. 

Complying with the laws of the host country 

Complying with the laws of the host country an individual is currently staying in is extremely important to ensure that the divorce process does not become more complicated and stressful. 

For example, Singapore is an example of one country which has made it illegal for a child to leave the country without the express written consent of both parents or guardians. This is because Singapore is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction 1980. Many other countries are signatories of this Convention, including Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. 

This means that if an individual is currently residing in one of these areas, they cannot just decide to take the children back to their country of citizenship without notifying their other partner. Relocating without consent can also be extremely disruptive to the lives of the children involved in the relationship. 

Essential steps to take before you think of relocating 

Because of the complexity of the laws in different countries, it is important that any major changes made are well planned and thought out. Some guidelines that will minimise the breach of any laws include: 

  • Speaking with your ex partner and negotiating with them
  • Coming to an agreement with your ex partner in writing
  • Staying informed about the rules and regulations in the host country that the family is staying in.

It is highly recommended to seek legal advice to ensure that the best options can be ascertained for the family. The complexity of navigating conflicting laws of two different countries can be stressful. Contacting a family lawyer in Australia who has experience in overseas relocations will be extremely helpful. They should also be able to help with any financial assets and the property settlement that occurs when there is a relationship breakdown. 

Property settlement after a divorce 

In Australia, there is no particular requirement for property settlement proceedings to be conducted in the same place as divorce proceedings. However, in other countries there may be restrictions which means that if an individual gets divorced in that country, they are also legally required to conduct their property settlement in that same country. 

If this law is not followed and one party decides to commence property settlement proceedings in Australia, the other party is able to bring an application to stop those Australian proceedings. This is just one example of the complexities that can arise when dealing with different jurisdictions. 

Jurisdictional considerations

As there are different approaches taken by the legal systems of different countries, it is important to consider which is an individual’s preferred jurisdiction. Important considerations include: 

  • If there are children involved in the relationship breakdown, it is important to note that courts in different jurisdictions may approach child custody and parenting disputes differently. Hence, it will be important to understand which approaches are taken and where. For example, the Australian courts take the ‘best interests of the child’ as the paramount consideration for all family related matters. 
  • The time limitations associated with lodging a divorce application will also differ. 
  • The approach taken regarding the split of property and assets within a relationship. 

If you need any assistance regarding your relationship breakdown please feel free to reach us via the contact form.

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