Top 10 legal questions to ask before moving abroad
We have taken the top ten questions we are asked (although there are many more) to help international families understand what they need to know about international family law when moving around the globe.
- Check your relationship is recognised in your destination country as there can be problems with e.g. same-sex marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation. For example, in some countries some types of relationships can be deemed illegal. Some may have different legal rights on the breakdown of the relationship than those available in the country you are leaving.
- Check your visa status and whether you can reside in your destination country independent from your spouse or partner. We see some sad situations. One of the most difficult is where a ‘dependent’ spouse is made to leave a country as their partner has ‘control’ over their immigration status. A leaving parent cannot take the child with them unless the other parent has consented to the children’s removal from the country in which they are resident.
- Check when moving with a child or planning to have a child in your destination country that your spouse or partner agrees on the circumstances and terms for you to return to your home country with the child, then record that agreement. Whilst this might not be binding, it will stand you in good stead to know the other’s thoughts and intention on the matter before moving. It can also be very helpful evidence if this is later challenged.
- Check what your legal rights would be in your destination country if you were to separate or divorce whilst one or both of you lived there. This might seem negative, but certainly if your relationship is already a bit shaky this is highly advisable. It would be a confidential meeting with a specialist lawyer and may prove invaluable in understanding your financial entitlement and that of your children should you separate or divorce after your move.
- Check whether there is a gender bias in your destination country in respect of parental rights or financial rights upon separation or divorce. In some countries there is a male or female slant to the usual arrangements for the child upon separation. Local law would usually apply to child arrangements once you move and so advice about this might be crucial to your future planning.
- Check how long you need to reside in your destination country before you or your spouse or partner can gain rights to start family proceedings there. Owing to the significant disparity in laws upon divorce in different countries (for children and financial matters) it is essential to know at what point you or your partner/spouse will gain or lose the right to start proceedings in any country to which either of you have a connection.
- Check you pack and carry with you any final family court orders, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, parental agreements and translations when you take a child from a country, as some border agencies require to see this. This will make your passage through customs far smoother. In some countries the delay can be very long indeed whilst family travel documents are checked and verified. Check with the relevant consulate before travelling. In some countries it is obligatory to travel with documentary proof that the travel is being undertaken with the appropriate parental or judicial consent.
- Check whether any marital agreement/your marital regime is recognised in your destination country, or if you need to make a further nuptial agreement to comply with your destination’s laws. In England and some other countries marital agreements are not binding regardless whether they were binding and legally effective in the country in which they were drafted and signed.
- Check if you can open a bank account in your sole name in your destination country and in any event try to keep a sum of money aside for emergencies. Opening a bank account abroad can be a complicated process for a non- national or temporary resident. But as well as giving you access to funds in an emergency it can also be an essential part of an immigration, visa application or rental agreement etc.
- Check what legal rights you would be giving up by moving. Just as crucial as what rights you might gain on any move are those you or your partner might lose on any move. In the most extreme cases this can literally mean the difference of receiving a considerable settlement as opposed to receiving nothing at a relationship breakdown. Take care especially if you have entered into what you might consider to be a pre-marriage agreement weighed in your favour as this may become ineffective if you seek to rely on it in another country.
International family law is a very niche and specialist practice area. All of our lawyers at The International Family Law Group LLP are experts in their field with a wealth of experience. If you require advice or for further information visit www.iflg.uk.com
The contents of this article are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such, Legal advice should always be sought for your specific circumstance.
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The International Family Law Group LLP is a specialist law firm, based in London, looking after international and national families. iFLG handles a plethora of financial and forum matters linked to a relationship breakdown and matters relating to children (child relocation, abduction, adoption, surrogacy, contact and residence issues). As accredited international family law specialists iFLG regularly receives instructions from foreign lawyers concerning matters in England and Wales. iFLG is also regularly instructed by ICACU (Central Authority for England and Wales) and we also provide expert evidence abroad in family cases.