Expatriate law can disallow taking children back home after divorce

Expatriate law can disallow taking children back home after divorce

Expatriate law can disallow taking children back home after divorce

Readers might be surprised to learn that one in every 10 British citizens is now living overseas.

This expat exodus from the UK isn’t just fuelled by retirees looking for a drier, warmer climate and a low cost of living as it also includes British professionals lured by the tax-free lifestyles, fast and furious career progressions and massive salaries unavailable in the UK. Expat hubs such as the Middle East, Hong Kong, Singapore and even China are the living, working proof that there’s now an impressive choice of world destinations where financial and career dreams can come true.

For those lucky and talented enough to be offered a position in one of these upscale locations, they and their families normally receive full support from their company as regards getting visas, arranging housing and contributing to international schooling. It’s undoubtedly exciting to move to Asia or the Gulf States, but few expatriate professionals give a thought to the effect it might have on their personal relationships. Sadly, a break-up in such a location can be even more devastating than one in the home country, especially when children are involved.

For children, where they are living at any one time is their legal, habitual residence, making removing them an act of child abduction. This fact can come as a shock to expat parents, who find it difficult to believe they could be accused of doing this as part of a separation or divorce. Mothers who wish to return to the UK and take their children with them cannot do so legally if the father forbids it. Some take a gamble rather than getting permission from a local court, and some get away with it, but it’s not the recommended course of action.

A few favourite expat professional destinations have recognised this as a major problem, with Dubai, for example, now allowing a single mother a year’s extended stay without a sponsor after she can no longer rely on her spousal visa due to divorce. The Singapore legal system also seems to be moving in a similar direction. It would help if companies which regularly send employees and their families on reassignment overseas would take it on themselves to educate them in the potential problems caused by relationship breakdowns in a legally unfamiliar location.

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