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Harris, Family Law Expert
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 2851
Experience:  Family Law - Specialist in Divorce, Financial Relief and Children Matters
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This is question relating to international divorce law

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Hello, this is question relating to international divorce law and I am hoping for quite a detailed answer.
I have known my wife for 6 years, since 2010. I am a British citizen since birth and my wife is a citizen of the Philippines. We got married in the Philippines 3 years ago in 2012. In July 2014 I began living in the UK again and my wife visited a couple of times using a visitor visa. In December 2015 my wife joined me in the UK using her newly acquired "Family of a Settled Person" visa.
Unfortunately our relationship now seems to be breaking down. I have always offered my wife a marriage where we live together, raise our children together and stay together forever. However, in the last couple of months my wife has been saying that she is unsure that she wants that kind of life, or any life with me for that matter.
Communication on the matter has been kind, open and plentiful between us. However, my wife refuses to make the decision to commit or to separate. She repeatedly says that she needs over 1 year (or several years) to decide if she wants a life with me.
Now to get to my questions:
a.) As the wedding took place in the Philippines, is it possible for my wife to initiate a divorce in the UK? Note that the concept of divorce does not exist in the Philippines and they have some special rules regarding international marriage.
b.) Are there any time considerations, regarding visa etc, which affects her ability to initiate a divorce in the UK? I am thinking that maybe this why she wants to wait over a year to decide.
c.) If she initiated a UK-style divorce, would she be able to take a portion of my savings away from me? All of my wealth is currently in bank account savings (£50,000). She is not poor though, she also has considerable savings in the Philippines and she owns a 2-bedroom condominium unit in the Philippines. Her condominium unit alone would be worth more than my savings.
d.) If I decide to proceed with a separation, would the fact that I am married in the Philippines impact my life considering that I would not be returning to the Philippines? I imagine that it is only a valid marriage within the Philippines and does not count anywhere else. More specifically, would my Philippines marriage prevent me from getting married (again) in a country other than the Philippines?
Hi, thanks for your question.
1. It does not matter where the marriage took place, in deciding whether the court has jurisdiction it will look at whether either of you are habitually resident or domiciled in England and Wales. As she has moved here under a spousal visa and is living with you it is likely that she would meet the criteria for habitual residence.
2. No, there is no time-limit in relation to the visa and divorce itself and she could initiate this at any time as long as you have been married for 1 year (maybe this is where she is confused?)
3. If she initiates a divorce in England, then she would also be entitled (as would you against her) to pursue an application for financial relief arising out of the marriage. In such an application both of you will need to provide full and frank financial disclosure of your respective financial positions (all income, assets, property, savings in the UK and abroad) and your reasonable needs and the needs of the children. The court will then decide if any agreement is fair for everyone and if no agreement is reached the court can make an appropriate order regarding assets and finances.
4.If you were married and it was an official ceremony in the Philippines then it would be considered a lawful marriage in England and in order to remarry in England you would need to obtain a divorce.
Please let me know if you have any further questions regarding this.
Harris and other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi, I have purchased the extra advice and provided my email address. I am awaiting contact from you so we can discuss more. Thanks.
Thanks - you can raise the further questions here and I will assist you.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Follow on from (1.)
What happens if I tell my wife that I want a separation and then I inform the Home Office about it? That would invalidate her “Family of a Settled Person Visa” and force her to leave the UK. Would she still be able to file for divorce under those circumstances?
If the Home Office are informed that you are separated it is for them to decide whether to rescind the visa or not.
In the event that the visa is cancelled and she leaves the UK, she could still potentially apply for a divorce in England under the connection that you were both last habitually resident in England and you still reside here" OR " You are habitually resident here" - so the English courts will still have jurisdiction to deal with the divorce.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Follow up to (3.)
I suspect that she would not be honest in disclosing her financial positions. Even if she was honest about her positions, would it make it less likely that I would have to give her a portion of my savings given that she already has more wealth than me (property plus savings)?
If you were able to evidence her wealth (she needs to disclose financial documents and you can scrutinise these and ask questions, as well as requesting details of assets you are aware of) then her being in a better financial position would prevent her making a successful claim and it may be the case that if the court considers the application then there may be an order for her to provide assets or financial relief to you. In considering whether to make a financial relief order the court takes the following into account:
1.The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future, including in the case of earning capacity any increase in that capacity which it would, in the opinion of the Court, be reasonable to expect a party to the marriage to take steps to acquire;
2. The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
3. The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;
4. The age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;
5. Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage;
6. The contributions which each of the parties has made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family;
7.The conduct of each of the parties, if that conduct is such that it would, in the opinion of the Court, be inequitable to disregard it;
8. In the case of proceedings for divorce or nullity of marriage, the value to each of the parties to the marriage of any benefit which, by reason of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage, that party will lose the chance of acquiring (e.g. a right to your husband’s pensions).
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Follow up to (4.)
As an example, I am also an Australian Citizen. Australia has no knowledge of the marriage that exists in the Philippines. Practically speaking, it seems like there would be nothing stopping me from re-marrying in Australia because the authorities there simply wouldn’t know. Am I right?
Well not necessarily. I am sure Australia would have a similar process as England whereby you have to give Notice to marry, and when you give notice you need to attend a government office and answer questions about your identity and whether you are married - not being truthful about your marriage in the Philippines would be a criminal offence, and in the event that a further marriage took place it will likely be invalid.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
And Finally...
So far I have been physically and emotionally faithful to my wife. However, I happen to know a wonderful woman living in the country of Bhutan who also ran away from a scary marriage. Now imagine an extraordinary scenario that I ran away from the UK and into the arms of this wonderful woman (to live there) and neither she nor I want to marry again (live as boyfriend/girlfriend forever). In this wild scenario could I get in legal trouble? For instance, could my wife press cross-border charges for bigamy, etc?
In England it would entitle her to apply for a divorce under adultery (if she can evidence this) or unreasonable behaviour. It would not be considered bigamy/polygamy unless you married the other woman.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
In that scenario she could do what she likes in England as long as I could get on with my new life in Bhutan. I just had to ask that one out of interest. Thank you for taking the time with my questions. I believe I paid you £43 already, but I'd like to round that up to £50 if there is a way to tip here.
Thank you - there should be a bonus option on the site for you to use.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I have been married for 3 years, we got married in the Philippines, I am a British citizen and my wife is a citizen of the Philippines. My wife recently got her "Family of a Settled Person" visa and she used it to enter the UK 2 months ago.Unfortunately our marriage has taken a severe turn forthe worse and we are considering ending the relationship (on good terms, mutually). My wife, however, wants to keep living in the UK and she is terrified of returning to the Philippines because in her Asian culture she would be seen as worthless (a woman who failed at marriage), although her family would look after her she would be a great source of shame to them and her life would be highly controlled.I am writing to you to ask this question on behalf of my wife, does she have any options which we may have not realised? Is there a way that we could end our relationship but allow her to keep living in the UK? or any Westernised country where women can still have a life after separation?
From what I can see based on your information, she would not have an automatic right to remain in the UK. The Home Office will need to be informed of the separation and they will need to do their own assessment to either rescind the visa, or to grant her compassionate leave to remain.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I am a British citizen and my wife is a citizen of the Philippines. We got married in the Philippines 3 years ago.Divorce does not exist in the Philippines. However, if we got divorced in the UK we would both be able to re-marry in the Philippines due to certain provisions.My question is;
Idon't think we would be able to go through with an annulment in the Philippines, so if we took no action in Philippines but we divorced in the UK would I have any problem with getting remarried in a THIRD country (specifically Malaysia)?
As long as Decree Absolute has been obtained then you will be able to remarry in Malaysia