Expat Divorce Law

Over the years I have developed an extensive expat divorce practice, applying my experiences in international family law. I have particular expertise in advising clients working in the oil and gas industry, who often reside in areas where they do not wish to apply for international divorce. I also have developed a sound understanding of the legal systems of North America and Europe having spent the last ten years sitting on the board of international organisations

Do I Need to Divorce in Another Country?

The expats  I advise often don’t  know that they are able to divorce in Scotland even if they continue to live abroad. Most are relieved to hear that they can divorce in Scotland as they would rather not divorce somewhere  where there are layers of bureaucracy, cultural/religious differences and often language barriers to contend with.

In the majority of international divorce cases, an expat divorce through the Scottish courts wouldn’t require either spouse to travel back home to start your divorce. I can start proceedings and carry out the divorce in Scotland on your behalf. Some documents will need to be signed by you but they can be sent securely by courier. Alternatively, because I am a fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL), a past board member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) and the current secretary of the European Academy of Collaborative Professionals (ENCP), I have reliable legal contacts around the world, many of whom have become good friends.

That means that I can pick up the phone to any number of legal experts around the world the majority of whom are happy to provide me with almost instant advice.

There may be a small added cost if both of you reside outwith Scotland as in order to get over the residential requirements we would need to process the divorce in Scotland’s highest court -the Court of Session.  You will of course save on paying UK VAT if you reside out with the EU!

An uncontested expat divorce in Scotland  will take the same time to process as one where both spouses are living here.

You can divorce in Scotland if:

1.    You and your spouse are habitually resident in Scotland.

2.      You or your spouse lived in Scotland and one of you still lives there

3.      You wish to commence the divorce and your spouse lives in Scotland

4.      You wish to commence the divorce and you have lived in Scotland for 1 year

5.      You wish to commence the divorce and you have lived in Scotland for 6 months, and you are a domiciled Scot

6.      You and your spouse are both domiciled in Scotland

7.      Either you OR your spouse are domiciled in Scotland, and no other EU country has jurisdiction under 1-6 above

Domicile v. Habitual residence


Domicile of origin is the domicile that everyone acquires at birth.  A person must always have a domicile, and can only have their domicile in one country. A person can acquire a new domicile by moving to another country and intending to remain there permanently. Due to ongoing connections with home, is usual for expats to retain their domicile in their home country which is the key to being able to divorce in the Scottish courts even though you don’t live there.

Habitual residence

Habitual residence is the place where you establish yourself on a fixed basis. Generally speaking, you are habitually resident in the country in which you live and work.

Other services

Comparative advice on where best to raise proceedings. In addition to expat divorces, I also offer strategic advice as to where you should divorce so as to secure the best results. “Forum shopping” as it is known is now very common due to people leading increasingly international lifestyles. It is not uncommon for there to be a choice of two or three possible jurisdictions to choose from. The differences in the ranges of awards of capital, spousal support and child maintenance can vary hugely from country to country. Even the differences between Scotland and England are stark. Because raising proceedings in different jurisdictions can result in such diverse financial settlement awards, there is often a race to raise proceedings in a particular country.  I can offer strategic advice on where best to raise for your particular set of circumstances and can assist you with obtaining the best advice from specialist lawyers in other jurisdictions so that you can make informed decisions and move at lightning speed if required.

Child abduction

A sad part of having an international lifestyle is that when relationships break down one of you may wish to move away with the children. In extreme cases one party may remove the children without permission before a parenting plan is agreed.

Sometimes even where consent is given for, say an extended holiday, the children are not returned. Many countries ( but by no means all) have signed international conventions on child abduction such as the Hague Convention on International child abduction and the European Convention. I can assist you with securing the return of your children. Please note however that I do not offer legal aid and in some instances you may qualify for state assistance.

Get in touch

Cath Karlin is a vastly experienced family solicitor and uses this alongside her expertise to assist you however possible. She is very familiar with the process of divorce and can expertly guide you whatever your situation. Her divorce and separation expertise spans a number of issues including child custody, division of assets, surrogacy cases and prenuptial cohabitation agreements. If you’re curious about costs, we have a page breaking down the initial costs of a consultation. Read her reviews to see how great she is at what she does and get in contact today. I really pride myself on my local reputation, with 60 5-Star Google reviews.

How can I help?

If you’d like to arrange a consultation or find out if I can help you please do get in touch.

Main office call: 0131 357 1515

Direct dial call: 0131 357 1516


Cath Karlin Family Law
15/16 Queen Street