And no, it’s not me thinking about divorcing my poor husband (luckily, he doesn’t read my blogs). Rather, it is a growing concern amongst my international friends, and is also a hotly debated topic on expat chat forums online. What happens to couples from two different countries who are living in a third country (and who may have bilingual children with dual citizenship) when they decide to get a divorce? I mean, getting divorced in a single country is complicated enough, but it becomes a logistical jungle when multiple legal systems, taxation systems, child custody arrangements and of course international sets of grandparents all get thrown into the mix!
I’ve got one set of friends who have divorced amicably and share custody of their child, but both of them are stuck in a foreign country that has nothing to do with them, because neither of them wants to relocate to the country of the other partner. And, of course, neither wants to be at a distance from their child.
I have another friend who cannot find work in the UK at the moment, and struggles to support herself and her kids. However, she cannot return to her country of origin (and her supportive family and far better career prospects) because her husband threatens to charge her with child abduction.
I know of another case where the couple had relocated to Australia before their divorce. The husband has agreed to let the wife move back to the UK with the kids, but his own parents (in Germany) are very cross that they will have less opportunity to see their grandchildren, that they will forget to speak German and so they are considering legal action for joint custody. Meanwhile, the mother is concerned that, because of the huge distance, the bond with their father will be severely damaged.
International law is a very tricky subject, and so is international financial advice, but I am thinking above all of the emotional costs to all involved. And how quickly a delightful adventure abroad can turn into a nightmare. I’m thinking of putting together a support group and advisory session for people going through such situations – or do you think people will avoid this like the plague because ‘it might be tempting fate’?