Consider which country you can get divorced in or resolve financial disputes
One country will usually be better for you than the other. You do not have to get divorced or resolve issues in the country where you were married or PACS’d.
There are EU rules for divorce and maintenance jurisdiction issues. The criteria are a mix of habitual residence and nationality. A French couple will usually have the choice of both England and France. Financial awards are usually more generous in England and the first to issue will secure their chosen jurisdiction to the exclusion of the other. Act quickly, and with legal advice.
Can I move back to France with my child?
You will need the other parent’s written permission and failing that a court order. There is recent new case-law on child relocation cases, and it has got harder in some cases to get permission. Obtain early advice. Arrangements around the time of separation may affect the result later.
What options do we have in England if we don’t want to go to court?
There are a number of different non-court options: round-table negotiations, mediation and collaborative law. These options, where both parties want them and act in good faith, are often quicker and cheaper.
How do I know where to turn to for legal advice in England and what will it cost me?
In England and Wales, Resolution is the recognised body of specialist family lawyers www.resolution.org.uk. Check that your lawyer is a member. Do they have experience in dealing with international family law cases? If considering non-court options of negotiation, see if your lawyer is also a trained mediator or collaborative lawyer. You may also be more comfortable speaking with a French-speaking English lawyer.
You can ask at an early stage what the anticipated legal costs of the proceedings may be and your lawyer should give a best and worst case scenario and talk you through how realistic it will be for you to try a negotiated settlement. Legal costs can in some cases be sought from the wealthier party as a "living expense" during the separation.
First published in Ici Londres magazine, Autumn 2012