Hong Kong-based ‘house husband’ wins right to hear case in England

Divorce is never easy, especially when children are involved, and this issue can get even more complicated for expatriate and international couples. Divorce and family law varies from country to country, and can be very complex indeed when dealing with relationships that span national borders.

The first question that needs to be considered is which country’s court will have jurisdiction. England will have jurisdiction if one party is resident here for at least 12 months before starting divorce proceedings. A recent ruling by the Court of Appeal in England demonstrates the significance of jurisdiction.

The case concerned a 15 year marriage between a high-earning investment banker and her stay-at-home husband. They lived an international lifestyle with homes in Hong Kong, Malaysia and London. Their assets include a £1m wine collection and £4.5m unmortgaged apartment in Kensington

The wife wanted a divorce in Malaysia. Among other things, she claimed that the couples’ interests were centred there and that as she is the main breadwinner court proceedings should be located near to her current place of work – Malaysia.

The husband on the contrary claimed that the marriage had been broken down for at least two years and in that time he spent more and more time in England. The husband’s centre of interests ceased to be dictated by the wife’s working life.

As well as the above considerations, it is undoubtedly the case both parties had in mind the financial consequences of divorce in both countries and in particular the fact that English law is perceived to be more favourable to the financially weaker party. The stakes were high.

In the event, the Court of Appeal ruled in the husband’s favour. The Judge decided that England had been the husband’s “permanent and stable home” for at least 12 months before issuing the divorce Petition and as such he was entitled to start proceedings in England.

As it can be beneficial to use the English legal system to process your divorce you should always take advice on whether you are eligible to divorce under English law. Please contact us on 01225 750000.

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