Russian couple’s divorce not valid in UK (Family Court)

In Sergey Solovyev v Alexandra Solovyeva, the Family Court has ruled that a divorce obtained by a Russian couple via the Consulate of the Russian Federation in London should not be recognised in the UK.

The couple were nationals of the Russian Federation and had married there in 2002. In 2012 they were living in London. Their marriage had broken down and so they took steps to obtain a divorce in accordance with Russian procedure at the Russian Consulate in London. Because the couple did not have children and had mutually agreed to divorce this was an administrative process with no need for judicial involvement.

The wife (W) subsequently remarried in America but remained in the UK with her new husband on a spousal visa. When the husband (H) however sought to remarry, the UK authorities took the point that the divorce was not recognised here. This led to W having to temporarily leave the UK.

H then applied for a declaration of marital status and hoped that the matter could be dealt with swiftly by consent.

Sir James Munby P dismissed the application. He accepted that the divorce was obtained in accordance with Russian law but ruled that the Russian Consulate in London could not be treated as foreign territory. The divorce had been obtained in London without using the procedure specified for England and Wales. It therefore could not be recognised within the meaning of Part II of the Family Law Act 1986 which provides at section 22(1): ‘… no divorce … obtained in any part of the British Islands shall be regarded as effective in any part of the UK unless granted by a court of civil jurisdiction.’

The parties remain married under English law.

Case: Solovyev v Solovyeva [2014] EWFC 1546, 15 May 2014.

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