I’m Italian/Brazilian, my wife is Polish and we married in the UK. We have two children, ages five and six, with Brazilian and Polish passports. I live in the UAE and they live in Bahrain. What’s the quickest and cheapest way to divorce? HJ, Duba

Expert 1:

Alexandra Tribe

Solicitor at Expatriate Law

A court’s ability to accept an application for divorce is called “jurisdiction”. Clients often assume they must divorce where they got married; this is not necessarily the case. In general, a person can divorce in the country in which they or their spouse live, or in the country of their birth or nationality or that of their spouse. Some countries have additional rules. For example, expats can divorce in England if a spouse is “domiciled” there – ie they have lived in England and see England as the home country they intend to return to.

In your case, you have many options including Italy, Brazil (where you were born), Poland (where your wife was born), and Bahrain (where your wife lives). If your wife has not lived in Dubai, it is unlikely that you would have jurisdiction to divorce here, as in most cases the respondent to the divorce must reside in the UAE for the court to allow an application. You mention that you were married in the UK. If you or your spouse lived in England for a period of time and were settled there, and intend to return to England, you may also be able to divorce in England.

It is important that you speak with a lawyer in each potential jurisdiction to determine whether you can divorce there, what the costs will be, how long the divorce will take, and what the financial outcome will be (in terms of maintenance, division of assets etc). Seeking full advice at an early stage, and weighing the pros and cons of divorcing in one jurisdiction as against another is hugely important and can lead to significant savings. Choosing a country in which you can obtain a “quick and cheap” divorce, can be counter-productive if that country then awards your spouse greater levels of maintenance for a longer term or a greater share of assets. The divorce process and financial outcome can vary from country to country. You will find experienced family lawyers from most countries around the world listed at www.iafl.com and most lawyers should give you a quick assessment on jurisdiction over the phone. Jurisdiction is complex, so be sure to speak to a lawyer that has good experience in international family law.

Expert 2:

Diana Hamade

Attorney at law at International Advocate Legal Services

The fact that the party seeking divorce lives in the UAE renders him eligible to file for divorce in the UAE, but since the wife lives in Bahrain she also may be able to challenge the UAE court jurisdiction and ask for the court of Bahrain to deal with the divorce based on the procedural law principle that gives the court of the respondent jurisdiction. The courts of the UAE and Bahrain should not vary widely in terms of expenses.

Also the fact that the man holds two passports, rendering him stateless under Private International Law and according to the UAE Civil Procedures Law, prevents him from seeking the application of any of his passports’ laws in his divorce proceedings and subjects him to the UAE law in his divorce. Luckily for him, this is the cheapest way to divorce, at least as far as the finances upon termination of marriage are concerned. Finances in this context means the maintenance for the wife and child maintenance as ordered by courts.

The wife may file a counter claim applying her own law – Polish law. Maintenance, in Polish law, may be better than UAE law, but the cost of the application of foreign laws can be steep. The wife will be eligible for compensation under UAE law, which again is rather modest compared to other jurisdictions.

While the court fees are insignificant, the legal fees will be significant to many. Maintenance under UAE law only covers children for housing, living expenses, school fees and medical expenses. The stand the wife takes over the divorce proceedings will have a serious impact on the expenses in the process.

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Source: Money