Transatlantic Divorce: Covering the bases during a difficult time

Transatlantic Divorce. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had two. Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger, perhaps, had none but for the estimated 200,000 US-born individuals living and working in the UK, sadly, a number will also experience the breakdown of a relationship.

In this Tanager Talk, Elizabeth Carson, a family lawyer with international expertise at the firm of Penningtons Manches, provides listeners with advice on key considerations when a transatlantic divorce is being considered.

From the start, look closely at the complicated issue of jurisdiction that can have a big impact on the outcome of a divorce and financial settlement. Even within the UK there are multiple jurisdictions while the US has one for each of the 50 states. In a city like London, a transatlantic couple frequently includes a partner from another European country, adding yet another jurisdiction.

Be aware, as well, that your desired immigration status following the divorce should be considered from the outset. If, for example, one partner is on a spousal visa, yet wants to remain in the UK, then the timing of the proceedings, the immigration assistance that might be needed and other considerations are important to address at an early stage.

When children are involved, there are even more considerations. Under English law, parents must not only agree on where the children will live, which could include a foreign country, but also on the religious upbringing, education and major medical decisions for their child. If the parents cannot agree, the courts will decide. Elizabeth cautions against going around the system. Taking a child on holiday outside the country and then remaining there without the consent of the other parent is considered child abduction, and the courts will be swift to take action.

Turning to the division of property, while international families often have assets in more than one country, in many cases, one partner will know much more about the family finances.  The partner who has not been as involved needs to get up to speed quickly and should seek financial advice early on.  As well, tax considerations for any settlement need to be considered upfront, often for multiple jurisdictions. As an example, from a tax perspective, alimony in the US is treated very differently from spousal maintenance in the UK.

And finally, as transatlantic relationships are almost by definition more complicated, Elizabeth encourages couples to also consider the benefits of a pre-nuptial agreement that meets US and UK legal requirements. If you are moving to London with a US pre-nup, have it reviewed by an English solicitor to make sure it complies with English law.

To learn more about family law at Penningtons Manches visit or follow them on twitter @Penningtonslaw. To contact Elizabeth Carson call 44 (0)207 404 4433 or email



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