International divorce enquiries rocket in South West


A leading regional legal firm is reporting a sharp increase in the number of people from other countries issuing divorce proceedings in the South West to achieve a better result.

Stephens Scown, which has offices in Exeter, Truro and St Austell, says they have seen at least a ‘doubling’ in enquiries from individuals in countries such as France, Spain, America and Holland filing for divorce here, in order to take advantage of the English approach to dividing assets.

“We are seeing a marked increase on last year in the number of overseas clients wanting to issue divorce proceedings in the South West”, says Andrew Barton, an associate solicitor in the Family Law Team with Stephens Scown.

In this year already the firm has had a greater number of enquiries involving an ‘international element’ than in previous years. He says, “It’s far easier for people to live and work abroad now and one or both parties divorcing may have large properties or significant matrimonial assets outside the UK”.

Andrew continues, “For many people it’s about getting as much as they can from a divorce court and making a decision about which country’s jurisdiction will give the most favourable decision – also known as ‘forum shopping’, weighing up the pros and cons of which would be the best place to issue proceedings.

“Great care needs to be taken when making this choice. We often come across situations were spouses have been advised to issue proceedings in their own country, only to find later on they would have very likely got a more favourable judgement had proceedings been issued in the English courts”, he adds.

The French newspaper Journal du Dimanche recently quoted one case involving a woman who in her divorce from her city trader husband received an £800,000 financial settlement in a Paris court. It is reported that if she had filed for divorce in England would have received in excess of £3 million.

Andrew says it is better to make the right decision from the outset or warns it could be far costlier in the long-run, “The key is to get good legal advice – if the decision is taken to issue proceedings in this country, it is vital action is taken quickly. It is all about who can get to the court doors quickest.”

With the on-going tough financial climate around the globe, Andrew believes the number of international cases they will handle as a firm will continue to rise this year, “We are seeing an increase in the number of people divorcing and with the recession still biting, clients are wanting to get more for their money and the best result all round.

Andrew adds, “Undoubtedly it can be a very complicated process, but a specialist family lawyer can help provide guidance around international jurisdictional issues and give advice on where best to file for proceedings.”

Stephens Scown’s Family Law Team is top ranked in the independent Chambers and Legal 500 guides to the legal profession. Andrew Barton is a Resolution Accredited Specialist in complicated financial matters arising from divorce and has particular experience in dealing with international divorce issues.

For more information or to contact Andrew, telephone 01392 210700 or email