Moving around the globe to where the work is has become a way of life for many, but often begs the question where, if anywhere, a person has settled. A family judge was faced with just that issue in deciding whether a couple’s divorce should go ahead in England or in New Zealand.

The couple were born and brought up in New Zealand and there was no dispute that they were domiciled there. The husband’s work as an economist had over the years taken him and his family to numerous different countries, including England. After the marriage began to fail, the wife moved to this country and he joined her here during an attempt at reconciliation.

She ultimately petitioned for divorce in England, shortly before he launched parallel proceedings to dissolve the marriage in New Zealand. He applied to stay the English proceedings on the basis that the English courts had no jurisdiction to hear the wife’s petition and that the appropriate forum for the divorce was New Zealand.

In dismissing that application, however, the judge noted that, due to their peripatetic lifestyle, the couple had not spent much time in New Zealand for 23 years before the marriage broke down. The wife had been living in England, where she had many family and friends, for two and a half years before lodging her petition and was plainly intent on settling permanently in this country.

She wished to be close to the couple’s three children, all of whom seemed to have chosen to make their lives in the northern hemisphere. Whilst it was unclear whether the husband intended to settle in England, he had moved here indefinitely and had taken a job here. Requiring the wife – who was in remission from breast cancer – to litigate in New Zealand was also likely to be burdensome upon her.

The Court noted that both husband and wife wished to divorce in the jurisdiction that they perceived would be most advantageous to them financially. However, in all the circumstances, the balance of fairness and convenience clearly came down in favour of the wife’s petition proceeding in England.

Contact Karen Moores, Partner for help and advice on 0808 166 5368 or email: k.moores@sydneymitchell.co.uk

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