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UK Court Divorce Ruling Applies in France

A French court has ruled that the decision of a UK court to award financial compensation in a cross-border divorce case is final, despite false residency claims.

Under EU laws, couples seeking a divorce can choose to do so in a court in the country of their nationality or of their main home.

With the increase in the number of international partners and those living abroad, couples are shopping around for the best place to divorce.

Not only might it be a question of the potential value of the settlement, but also the length and complexity of the procedure, and whether or not mutual consent is required.

Whilst the UK continues to be a member of the European Union (and perhaps even after Brexit) it has signed up to a European Regulation CE No 4/2009 governing the jurisdiction of national courts in maintenance disputes between divorcing couples.

Broadly speaking, what the rules stipulate is that the defendant can bring an action in the country where they are habitually resident, and that decisions made the court in that country are enforceable in another Member State.

In a case recently before the French Supreme Court, the Cour de Cassation, a divorced wife brought a claim in the UK for maintenance from her husband, who was living in France.

The Court of Appeal in France had ruled that the decision of the UK had executory effect in France, a decision the husband challenged, on the basis that he claimed the UK court had no jurisdiction to deal with the matter.

He stated that his former wife was not habitually resident in the UK, but in France, and that she had only brought the case to a UK court in order to obtain a higher financial settlement.

Under European law, the enforceable nature of such cross-border rulings did not apply where it could be shown that there had been a violation of public order.

He also contested proper notification of the court hearing, which he claimed he only knew about 9 days before the hearing.

The Cour de Cassation rejected the demand, refusing to consider whether or not a fraud had been committed as they considered the UK court was competent to decide on the matter.

They also rejected the lack of proper notice, on the basis that numerous letters had been sent to him advising him of the court hearing date, and that his failure to become aware of the date was due to a lack of diligence on his part.

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This article was featured in our Newsletter dated 03/08/2016

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