Musician Chris Martin and actress Gwyneth Paltrow have announced that they are “consciously uncoupling” in other words, they are to amicably separate.
The international couple have two young children and have spent their married life both in the UK and the USA. The Sunday Times reported that the couple have a combined wealth of nearly £120 million and own a portfolio of properties both in the UK and the USA including their home in L.A., a Manhattan apartment, a Hamptons estate and a mansion in London’s Belsize Park.
As with any separating couple where there are international elements to their lifestyle, Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow will have many important factors to consider when bringing their marriage to an end. Who will look after the children and where? Where will they divorce? What will happen to assets located abroad?
In relation to their children, the couple has indicated that they are intending to “co-parent”. But what happens if they can’t agree on where the children will live and who they will live with? It is not unusual for a divorcing couple to disagree about arrangements for their children but issues of residence and visitation can become all the more challenging if the parents live or intend to live in different countries.
In England, if one parent wishes to move abroad with a child, they either need to have permission from the other parent or the permission of the court. Parents, who have a court order in respect of contact with their children, may need to get it registered with the court in the country where the child lives in order to it be enforced.
If one parent removes a child from the country in which they live without the permission of the other parent this known as parental child abduction. It is clearly unlikely in the case of Martin and Paltrow but figures released in December 2013 by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) show that the number of parental child abduction and custody cases has more than doubled over the last decade, with almost two children being abducted abroad each day. This can have severe consequences, not only the emotional distress to all involved but also criminal sanctions for the abducting parent and the onerous financial costs of fighting custody battles in foreign courts.
There can be vast differences between the laws relating to divorce and the settlements awarded in one country to another. Couples who live or have lived in more than one country often have the option of choosing which country they would prefer to start court proceedings. This does not necessarily have to be the country in which they live or where they married.
In Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s case, it may be possible for them to divorce in LA where they currently live or in England as they previously lived in London which has recently been dubbed as the ‘divorce capital of the world’ due to generous financial settlements and one in six cases having an international element.
The vast differences between the divorce and settlement laws in various countries can sometimes result in divorcing couples ‘forum shopping’ which sees parties shopping around to see which country’s courts will give them the best deal. For example, the courts in some countries will consider a homemaker as equal to a breadwinner, others will not.
Clearly where the laws of one country are beneficial to one party they are likely to be detrimental to the other. This can sometimes result in a race between couples to get in there first and have divorce proceedings started first in the country that will get them a better divorce settlement.
Likewise if there are properties or assets abroad different countries apply different rules as to the ownership of assets. Some courts have the power to make orders in relation to assets both in their country and abroad, but others do not.
There may also be problems with enforcing divorce settlements obtained in one country in another. Where there are assets abroad, it is always important to take advice from an international family lawyer or a property specialist in the country where the divorce proceedings are taking place or where the property or assets are located.
However Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow deal with their separation, they will both need to obtain advice from specialist international family lawyers to help them through the process.
If you need advice relating to international family law or property law contact Worldwide Lawyers who will be able to put you in touch with a specialist lawyer in the appropriate country to help you.