Getting married and having children is a lifestyle choice for a huge number of people in the UK and USA but, what if something goes wrong? In this article, we look at the ways in which family law differs in the UK and USA…
Whether you live in York or New York, getting married and starting a family can be a joy but unfortunately, problems can occur. In any case, you’ll need to hire the services of a family law solicitor.
While a good solicitor will always help you to navigate things like divorce and child custody, it’s important to know what to expect. In this article, we’ll be explaining some of the differences between family law in the UK and that of the UK.
Divorce in the UK Vs the US
Below we’ll take a look at some of the key similarities and differences of divorce in the UK and US…
Divorce in the UK
Until this year, if you wanted to gain a divorce in the UK, you would need to cite ‘the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage’ and, would have to prove this by claiming one of the following factors:
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- Living Apart for at Least Two Years
- Living Apart for at Least Five Years
On the 6th of April 2022, No Fault Divorce was introduced in the UK, meaning that couples may now divorce without citing any of the above reasons. This ultimately made the process quicker and less expensive.
Unless a prenuptial agreement is in place, in England and Wales spousal maintenance is not automatic but is, instead, something which will be decided by a court. This will often constitute payments from one spouse to another where one partner earns significantly more.
When it comes to the division of property, this will generally be calculated and negotiated by the courts if the couple is unable to reach an agreement. Calculations will often be based on the finances which each partner has brought to the marriage.
Divorce in the US
In America, No Fault Divorce has been in place since 1969, meaning that couples do not need to state a reason for wanting to divorce and, more importantly, neither party is able to contest the divorce.
Alimony (spousal maintenance) is frequently paid in the USA by the higher earning partner and, a spouse may claim alimony if:
- They relied on their spouse for financial support
- They don’t have sufficient property or funds to provide for their needs
- They are unable to work due to illness or commitments such as caring for another person
Alimony payments are much more standard in the USA following a divorce and, in some states, are obligatory even if the lower earning spouse is able to support themselves. For example, stating that the divorce will result in an inferior lifestyle for them.
Child Custody in the UK Vs America
Below we’ll take a look at some of the key similarities and differences of child custody in the UK and US…
Child Custody in the UK
In the UK, the mother tends to be given custody of children in 71% of cases and, while this can be decided by a court, in most cases, this is an agreement reached by the divorcing or separating couple. Usually, the parent who does not have custody will be required to make child maintenance payments to the other party.
If the non-custody parent fails to make payments, the custody parent can apply to the Child Maintenance Service who will contact the non-custody parent. If that parent still fails to make payment, the other parent may be able to take them to court. Jurisdiction for parental responsibility in the UK is based on the child’s habitual residence, i.e., the main home in which the child lives.
Child Custody in the USA
Slightly higher than in the United Kingdom, the mother gains custody of children in 79.9% of cases in the USA. Another difference with child custody in the USA is that the jurisdiction for parental responsibility is based on the child’s home state, rather than the child’s residence. This can cover a wide distance as the largest state in the USA (Alaska) spans a massive 1.723 million square kilometres.
One final difference with child custody in the USA is that parents are frequently imprisoned for non-payment of child maintenance. One of the most famous examples of this was disgraced musician, R. Kelly, who was jailed after failing to pay his ex-wife child maintenance payments of $161,633.
How Different is Family Law in the UK Vs US?
In both the USA and the UK, couples are encouraged to come to a mutual and amicable agreement when it comes to the terms of a divorce and also the arrangements for child custody. While this would always be the case in an ideal world, many couples are unable to do this, meaning that the case will inevitably end up in court. Court proceedings can often be a time consuming and expensive process.
In both the UK and the USA, the parent who gains child custody may be permitted to move to another town or city to live with the child (although the other parent may contest this). While, in the UK, this can be an inconvenience and involve some costs for visitation, the situation can be much more severe in the United States as the country is a lot bigger. For instance the distance between some states being up to 5.859 miles, involving travel by airplane.
However ultimately, both the US and the UK, courts believe in treating each case individually in order to reach as fair an agreement as possible.