Joanne Major, Leading Female Family Lawyer and Principal at Major Family Law, North East’s best Divorce and Family Law Specialists, comments in the Luxe Magazine that the world is getting smaller, international travel and work are more accessible and people generally are much more international.

It has become increasingly common for people to spend periods of time working abroad, retiring abroad, or to have a relationship with a person from another country. International families are now common, but the international element can cause complications and problems if the relationship ends.

Even if you both live in this country but have property or other assets in another country, the situation can be complex.

Knowing which country’s laws apply and what those laws are is vital, but getting the right advice and support at an early stage is not always straightforward when faced with a different language, different customs and local processes.

Getting early, authoritative advice can be a game changer in many situations, particularly where the parties are residing in a country where the relevant laws are particularly prejudicial to one of the parties.

Knowing which country’s laws apply and whether there is a choice of jurisdiction (which country’s courts are entitled to deal with the application) can affect a number of aspects to the relationship breakdown from where to commence divorce proceedings (and why), to the right to return home with the children, and entitlement to financial provision.

What may come as a surprise is that for the purposes of family law, anything outside of England & Wales is considered a different jurisdiction and is subject to different laws, even Scotland. Holiday home in the Highlands? Even that could be affected by the differing laws between Scotland and England & Wales.

Further afield, it may become more complicated still. Forum shopping, as it’s known, is the process of deciding between applicable countries’ legal systems in which to issue legal proceedings depending on which is deemed to be the most advantageous to the applicant’s situation.

Whilst this may sound terribly cynical, some couples spend vast amounts of money in legal arguments as to where divorce proceedings should be heard because so much is at stake.

In fact, within the EU (except for Denmark), European legislation has determined that the country in which proceedings are first issued will have jurisdiction, and therefore, it can become a race to issue proceedings before the other party to ensure a favourable jurisdiction.

With almost three times more British people living as expats in Spain than any other EU country, this is especially relevant.

Having recognised this, Major Family Law ensure that their clients have access to immediate and expert advice specific to their individual circumstances. Advice and representation is available from our team of expert lawyers even if the parties are resident abroad, thanks to our use of Skype, Facetime, video conferencing and other digital means of communication.

In addition, we are uniquely placed to offer clients local support and advice on Spanish law thanks to our reciprocal relationship with an established firm of Spanish Lawyers who have branches in Madrid, Malaga and Marbella as well as internationally, ensuring that Spanish resident expats can access the advice they need locally from English speaking lawyers in addition our advice on English law.

With a reputation for expertise in high net worth financial cases, and matters involving complex business issues, we can advise on all aspects of family and matrimonial law. Our experience in dealing with cross-border issues and our ability to conduct cases with clients based nationally and internationally make us the first port of call in international waters.

Joanne Major is the Principal at Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists, 12 West Road,  Ponteland, Newcastle upon Tyne.   T: 01661  82 45 82 Twitter: @majorfamilylaw

Major Family Law_ May 15