The idea that spending time with family at Christmas triggers marriage breakdown has always been overshadowed by the tensions for many of the long summer holidays.

In the UAE, the summer has been very long indeed this year, starting with Ramadan in early June followed by the annual “migration” during the hottest summer months and now the holidays associated with Eid. Coupled with the economic pressures and uncertainties that have marched in time with the fall in oil prices, many expat families are thinking of heading home for good and some about divorce.

The decision as ever for international families contemplating divorce is where to issue divorce proceedings. In London, and I assume in other capital cities across the world, divorce lawyers are agonising with their clients about where and when.

For expats in the UAE, there are unique issues to be aware of for English and other common law divorces, including:

  • There is no possibility of enforcing an English divorce court order in the UAE and vice versa
  • The family courts in the UAE are very unlikely to allow children to leave the UAE without the consent of the father
  • In most situations, remedies and the likely financial award available to a wife in England are far superior to those available in the UAE
  • Even if a divorce court makes a decision in the UAE, it is still possible for a spouse to make a claim in England following that overseas divorce

To an extent, timing is everything. Many expat families have a number of possibilities for where their divorce can take place based on their domicile and nationality as well as where they are actually living. Being first in time to issue divorce proceedings can be critical to the outcome of the financial settlement and any child arrangements.

Seeking early advice and choosing the right lawyer at this time is vital. Ideally, your lawyer should understand both the theory and practice in multiple jurisdictions of law to help you decide where to get the best cross-jurisdictional advice and what to do with it.