Filing for a "Eurostar" divorce - Paris or London?

10 July 2012

The press is full of reports that the number of wealthy French people planning a move to London has climbed following Francois Hollande’s victory in the presidential elections. London is expecting an influx of French professionals moving away from Paris, to get away from the potential top tax rate of 75%. London Estate agents have reported that sales of prime property have grown by 40% in the three months to the end of June, compared with the same period in 2011.

London already has a large French population and is referred to as France’s 6th biggest city due to the number of expatriates living here. But do French families moving to London consider what impact that move may have on their marriage and for some, their divorce?

Many people believe (wrongly) that a person must get divorced in the country in which they were married. This divorce “myth” is particularly relevant for French couples moving to England. In fact, jurisdiction to commence divorce proceedings is now standardised within the EU states (other than Denmark). An EU country will have jurisdiction to hear divorce proceedings (irrespective of where the couple were married) if both or either of the parties is habitually resident in that country, if both are nationals (or domiciled in the case of the UK or Ireland) or if the Petitioner (the person who starts the divorce proceedings) is domiciled and habitually resident in that country.

A French couple, having moved to London, could easily find themselves in a situation where the courts in both England and France have jurisdiction to hear divorce proceedings. This often results in a “race” to issue proceedings first in time in one country. There can be significant differences in the outcome of divorce proceedings between different EU countries (financially and procedurally), particularly as between England and France. It can also come as a shock to French couples to discover that their French marriage contract (contrat de mariage) may have very little relevance in English divorce proceedings, so advice must be taken at an early stage.

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