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Divorce law blog

What is a forum race? And why does my ex want to win it?

22/03/2018   By: Eleanor Lowes

As the world becomes ever smaller, it is far from uncommon for a separating couple to realise that more than one country may be able to deal with their divorce. However, different countries approach the financial arrangements on divorce in very different ways. Procedures also vary from country to country, particularly in relation to the disclosure of financial information. This means that a couple with the same financial resources could end up with very different financial arrangements if their divorce is dealt with in England than if it were dealt with, for example, in France or one of the US states. London is often described as the “divorce capital of the world” because the English courts tend to be more generous than other countries towards the financially weak.

Where more than one country has the ability to deal with a divorce, you may find yourself in a race with your ex to start your divorce in the country that is most advantageous to you. These races are described as jurisdiction or forum races.

The rules which apply to these races depend on the countries involved. Where the other country involves is also within the EU, a first past the post system operates. This is a pretty blunt system and means that divorcing couples do genuinely race to get their divorce petition in first to secure their chosen country. Being second past the post normally means you’ve lost out.

Where the other country involved is outside of the EU, the race is a bit less important. Being first past the post might be relevant but it is not the end of the story. The English court will look to see which country is the most appropriate one to deal with the case.

Issuing proceedings and the choice of country in which to start a divorce requires not only swift action but tactical decision-making and some really good legal advice – not only from English lawyers but also from the lawyers in the other countries that could be involved. The family team at Mills & Reeve have a wealth of experience in advising clients facing a forum race. You can read more about how we can help you and your family here.

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