London has gained a reputation as ‘the divorce capital of the world’ because settlements reached are, by international standards, very generous towards women. It is no surprise, therefore, that the courts in this country are a very popular choice of venue for wives seeking to divorce their husbands on the best possible terms.
However, the English courts are not the right place to deal with all divorces – they are for those who are domiciled in this country. Domicile is a complex notion but corresponds with ‘where someone belongs’. It normally begins with the domicile of your country of birth. A ‘domicile of choice’ can be obtained and is generally proven by having an intention to remain permanently or indefinitely in a different country. In practice, however, replacing a domicile of birth is difficult.
Recently, a wife who wished to have her divorce dealt with in this country was denied that right because she failed to establish that she was domiciled here. The woman, who is Irish, had had an international career and is married to a man domiciled in India, albeit that he owns property in England.
The couple met when both were working for the European Commission in Brussels and were married in Italy. The wife lived in England for 18 months whilst doing a postgraduate degree and took a British passport. Later she worked in England for 11 months. Otherwise the whole of her career had been spent abroad.
Although the wife had what was described as ‘an anchor’ in England and paid National Insurance Contributions here, LJ King of the Court of Appeal concluded that there was ‘no evidence from which the judge could have concluded that in 2001 the wife took up residence in England with the intention of establishing permanent or indefinite residence’.
Accordingly, she had not demonstrated that she had established a ‘domicile of choice’ in England and will not be permitted to bring divorce and financial remedy proceedings here.