By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Divorce is something people hope will never happen to them, but unfortunately an estimated 42 percent of British marriages now end in divorce, and some say in the U.S. it is closer to fifty percent. This figure is potentially even higher for multinational couples where cultural differences and living far from home and family can put added pressure on the relationship.
Divorce is also on the rise here in Brazil where the number of divorces has grown 161 percent in the last ten years, according to the Instituto Brasiliero de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE). For many expatriates living in Rio or Brazil, finding a lawyer to trust is a daunting affair, and help from a fellow estrangeiro is a welcome proposition.
As a British lawyer based in Rio and specializing in UK family law, Hero Lomas recently started working with London based, Expatriate Law and wants to help fellow expatriates in Brazil that may be going through difficult family issues.
Mrs. Lomas told The Rio Times, “Stressful under any circumstances, if you are living abroad, divorce might be far from straightforward. More than one country or ‘jurisdiction’ may be available for an expat to divorce. If your marriage has broken down and there is no chance for reconciliation, where to divorce should be one of your first considerations.”
Lomas explains it is important to conduct thorough research in to the availability and potential outcome in each jurisdiction, in order to ensure the best possible outcome, financially and otherwise. This is known in legal circles as ‘forum shopping’. She suggest that in such dire circumstances, “You need to move quickly. If proceedings are issued by your husband or wife in one country, it may well be impossible to move them to your preferred country later.”
Things can get complicated when the couple are from different countries and the ‘foreign’ spouse does not speak Portuguese or understand Brazilian law. Lomas recounts a story of a recent case in the Brazilian Courts in which a British man met a Brazilian working in London and fell in love.
“He sold his property in the UK and bought a place in Brazil with the proceeds. On moving to Brazil he unwittingly signed a legal document in Portuguese giving her rights to the property in Brazil. Shortly afterwards she left him and is now claiming half the value of the property,” according to Lomas.
She adds, “If one of you has a connection to the UK it could well be possible to get divorced in the UK. Take a British/Brazilian couple living in Brazil. Even if they are living in Brazil they would still be entitled to divorce in the UK, regardless of the country they married in, based on the British partner’s nationality or ‘domicile’. ”
Undoubtably the financial outcome of a divorce will hugely impact the life of everyone involved for the long term. It is therefore important to find advice from a specialist international family lawyer in each potential jurisdiction; especially as the laws can change on a daily basis.
Hero Lomas is an English qualified solicitor and mediator with the Rio de Janeiro office of Expatriate Law. Anyone looking for confidential information should email Lomas directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.