SA v FA [2022] EWFC 1159 September 2022

Published: 24/10/2022 09:00

HHJ Hess. Judgment concerning divorce proceedings, domicile and the most appropriate forum.

The parties met and married in England; the W was originally from South Africa. They had moved to the UAE in 2008 and remained there due to the H’s job; both appeared via video link from the UAE. W issued the divorce in England on the basis of domicile. H challenged jurisdiction stating that the parties were habitually resident in the UAE and only the UAE had jurisdiction. In the alternative, if both had jurisdiction, then the UAE was the appropriate forum.

Careful consideration of the law on domicile, noting that the court should not rely on statements of intention as to where a party will spend their final days, unless those statements are corroborated by action. HHJ Hess found that both parties’ domicile was England at the date the divorce was issued in September 2021 (noting that the H’s Will referred to English inheritance law and the UAE’s announcement that foreigners could remain living in the UAE post-retirement was made in November 2021).

HHJ Hess then considers forum, taking into account principles emerging from the case law and evidence of the new Non-Muslim Family Court in Abu Dhabi. The H offered undertakings to support the W’s presence in the UAE; to maintain his current level of assets in the UAE (guarding against the UAE not taking into account assets outside the jurisdiction) and to fund the W’s reasonable legal fees (in the event LASPO type orders were not available in the UAE). These undertakings were taken to be effective and reliable due to the H’s status as a solicitor qualified in England and Wales.

HHJ Hess determines the appropriate forum is the UAE.

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