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expat separation - maybe divorce

(16 Posts)
friendafar Sat 02-Jan-16 21:30:42

This is for my friend who is not (currently!) a mumsnetter! I haven't been through a separation but have read so much good advice over the years from people on here that I thought perhaps there could be some help for her.

Friend's DH wants to separate from her. He's German, she's British. They were married in Germany and have 3 young children (all born in Germany). They live in the Middle East.

He has moved out of the house that they are renting. Currently they both plan on staying in the country.

Has anybody been through this? What does she need to do? I've mentioned the Hague Convention about marriage to confirm that German marriage law applies to them. To check about whether she needs his permission to leave with the children at any time or risk being accused of kidnapping.

When he moved out he took the file that contained ALL their papers: birth certificates (hers and the children), rental contract etc. The whole lot, but she has their UK passports. She asked why he took it and he said he needed some papers for the children's German passports...

If they're going to divorce, can she file for divorce in the UK? Or would she have to do it in Germany..or where they now are?! Is it better if she files it first or if he does?!!

Can anybody give some useful Mumsnet advice! Obviously a lawyer will need to be involved at some point, but it's all so new that it would be helpful if anybody had an idea of what she needs to do to start.

*All the info is slightly altered so she's not traceable!

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Jan-16 21:47:35

I'm not a legal professional and your friend definitely needs to quickly contact a lawyer in Germany where she lives.

Having said that, I have a number of expat friends who divorced and from their experiences, my understanding is that regardless of where a couple was married, divorce happens where they live.

Also, she should get his permission in writing before she takes the children outside the country. A friend's husband reported her to the police for kidnapping although he knew well when she left, where she went, and when she was coming back. It all went very badly for her after that.

titchy Sat 02-Jan-16 22:14:41

They live in the Middle East. Not good for her if jurisdiction there applies - children belong to father etc. She should leave ASAP, with his written permission, then seek divorce when back in EU.

friendafar Sat 02-Jan-16 22:36:39


Titchy I'm concerned about that...

AnchorDownDeepBreath Sat 02-Jan-16 22:39:54

How long have they lived in the middle east? Could it be argued that the children have settled there?

This is going to be complicated, and the fact that he's taken all the documentation suggests that he has no intention of allowing friend or children to leave, and he's probably already had legal advice.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Jan-16 22:46:50

Sorry, I just realise now that I misunderstood your OP to mean that they were currently in Germany.

If your friend is currently in the Middle East where they live, she immediately needs to find and consult with a good English-speaking divorce lawyer there.

A lot depends on where in the Middle East they live, and what kind of laws that country has. Assuming neither are Muslim, they will not be expected to divorce under sharia laws. Your friend really needs to see a lawyer there to find out how and where the divorce will take place.

friendafar Sun 03-Jan-16 05:46:54


He returned the files last night it seems, so that's good-ish.

He is a German Muslim though. Not in any way related to the country they're living in, but he is Muslim.

DesertOrDessert Sun 03-Jan-16 08:38:54

You DEFINITELY need to get advice specific for her country. I'm in (the strictest) ME country, and if I wasn't married, I wouldn't be able to have residence without a job or a husband to sponsor me.
Please advise her to seek accurate advice for the country she is in, from someone who knows European, and ideally German and British divorce law. This is one where internet responses are unlikely to be accurate enough for her pretty specific situation.

FWIW, I've recently left (and then returned to) the country without my husband, and customs on all sides didn't bat a eyelid.

CoteDAzur Sun 03-Jan-16 08:44:26

Have they had a Muslim marriage? She would have needed to convert to Islam (very easy to do) if she did. I can't see sharia laws applying to their divorce in any other way.

Again, depending on the country she is in, your friend might find that civil divorce laws protect the woman more than she thinks. She really needs to get expert legal advice for that country immediately.

friendafar Sun 03-Jan-16 08:58:29


They didn't have an Islamic marriage (Muslim men can marry Christian women without them converting under Sharia law though).

It's all such a nightmare and because she's in the middle of it, she's hoping everything will turn out well. I'm hoping that too, but want her to be as protected as possible, in case things take a bad turn. I don't want to scare her, but I desperately want to make sure she understands that there's a risk to "hoping for the best", even in the UK, and then I'll support her in whatever decisions she makes. Horrible being so far away though!

Desert I think that some countries, many European too, don't bat an eyelid unless the other partner contacts the police to say you've "kidnapped" the kids - they're not proactive about it, but will act if called.

DesertOrDessert Sun 03-Jan-16 09:21:01

Hmm, considering I need DHs permission to leave the country, it suprised me grin I've been questioned in and out of Hong Kong extensively.

All the best to her. At least she has a look vely friend looking out for her.

lavenderhoney Sun 03-Jan-16 14:45:36

I was an expat in the Middle East, left my dh and took the dc back to the uk and divorced from there. I filed first which meant the uk divorce laws were used. We did not marry in the uk.

If your friend stays in the Middle East and divorces there she runs a very high risk of losing the DC. Europeans can divorce using sharia law now, whuch will not be too your friends advantage.

Didn't she bring the DC back to the uk for Christmas? Does she work in ME or have her own visa?

You can pm me if you want. She must be extremely careful and I'm afraid is in a very precarious position, especially as he has already left and has documents with him. I suggest she plays her cards very close to her chest with everyone including her friends and speedily makes some choices.

lavenderhoney Sun 03-Jan-16 14:49:14

And my ex dh tried to have me charged with desertion. If I was in the me then I would have been in serious trouble, prison, losing the DC- As it was, I was in the UK and it was of no consequence.

lavenderhoney Sun 03-Jan-16 15:13:30

It would concern me he was applying for German nationality passports, especially if the DC were born there. He could take them to Germany, for a holiday, never leave and file for divorce there and custody the children starting at a German school, he gets a new job and she would have to go and live in Germany - does she speak German? And go through divorce there, and co parenting in that situation.

There are many possibilities however hoping everything will be alright isnt going to make it so.

CoteDAzur Sun 03-Jan-16 15:16:17

One parent can't apply for passports for the DC by himself. He needs the written accord of OP's friend for that.

VegetablEsoup Sun 03-Jan-16 15:16:50

he couldn't apply for german passports on his own.
all people with parental responsibility have to sign the children's passport forms in person at the passport office.

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