The idea of “conscious uncoupling” has attracted a great deal of attention in the last week following the announcement of Gwyneth Paltrow’s divorce from Chris Martin. In short, they have decided to separate amicably.
The couple have two young children together and have spent married life living in the UK and the USA. Their joint net worth is reportedly $148,000,000 and they have a portfolio of properties in the UK and USA. So what happens next?
Where can they divorce?
Couples who live or had lived in a number of countries may have the option of deciding where they start court proceedings; this does not necessarily have to be the country in which they live or where they married. In Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s case, it may be possible for them to divorce in England as they previously lived in London.
The country where couples start court proceedings could have a significant impact on the outcome when it comes to children and assets. For example, the courts in some countries will award bigger divorce settlements to wives than others and will consider a homemaker as equal to a breadwinner; others will not. The enormous differences between countries can sometimes result in divorcing couples ‘forum shopping’; shopping around to see which courts will give them a better deal. There can sometimes be a race between couples to get divorce proceedings started in the country that will get them a better divorce settlement.
What happens if there are properties or assets abroad?
Where there are assets abroad, it is always important to make sure that advice is sought from a qualified advisor from the country in which the assets are located. There may be problems with enforcing divorce settlements obtained in one country, in another.
What about the children?
It would seem that Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow are intending to “co-parent”, which suggests that they will both play a meaningful role in their children’s lives and are intending to be amicable. But what happens if they can’t agree on where the children will live and who they will live with?
In England, if one parent wishes to move abroad with a child, they need the permission of the other parent, failing which, they must apply for court permission. Parents, who have a court order in respect of either residence or contact for their children, may need to get it registered with the court in the country that the child lives so that it can be enforced. In very extreme cases, one parent may remove a child from the country in which they live without the permission of the other parent; this is otherwise known as parental child abduction. It is unlikely to occur in the present case, but is sadly on the rise given the increase in families living international lifestyles.
As it can be beneficial to use the English legal system to process your divorce you should always take advice on whether you are eligible to divorce under English law.