Instructing a UK solicitor when stationed abroad

Whether you’ve been stationed abroad for a few weeks, months or years, there may come a time when you need a solicitor. Whatever the reason is that you require a solicitor whilst on duty, it is always good to know what you can and can’t do and how you go about instructing a solicitor.

Topics to be answered in this article

Can I instruct a UK based solicitor when stationed abroad?

The simple answer is a resounding YES! As a service person stationed abroad, you are entitled to deal with matters back home in the normal manner using the UK legal system. You can be abroad and instruct a UK based conveyancer to deal with your house purchase or sale wherever you may be. The same principle applies for many other areas of law, including divorce, separation and settling finances.

What’s my legal status abroad?

This is a broad and tricky area to cover and is governed both by statute (written law) and further intergovernmental agreements that set out the status of both service personnel and their dependents when assigned abroad or indeed on operations.

Most commonly, UK law will apply for those aspects of your life that are physically in the UK. Intergovernmental agreements might also adjust your status for criminal liabilities, but this will be on a very specific country by country basis, and possibly for certain types of crime only.

The other determinant of your legal status abroad is what is known as domicile. Domicile is a specific term that applies to the country where you have your permanent home . It is not your nationality, although your nationality and residence may affect your domicile status. Domicile is about an element of permanence and intention to live in a country. It is domicile which allows a normally resident service person to deal with family matters, or property conveyancing by instructing a UK based solicitor while abroad.

What issues can a UK solicitor assist with?

UK based solicitors are able to assist clients who have conveyancing requirements, have probate to deal with if a bereavement happens while you’re serving abroad, or with family related matters.

Service pensions can only be shared by an order made by a UK based court. No foreign court can deal with a service pension by making a sharing order as these are invalid.

Children matters increasingly involve cross border issues and provided the UK courts have jurisdiction in the matter, Goughs can assist clients where these issues arise. We have assisted clients in Dubai, Nepal, many EU countries and Canada as just some examples with issues ranging from children to divorce, and financial settlements.

What are the formalities of engaging Goughs from abroad?

We will need to verify your identity and address. This is done by the production of certain paperwork (passport, bank statements, recent utility bills) and is normally done face to face. Where this cannot be done face to face, an authorised person abroad can verify documents before they are sent to us.

Video calls, telephone facilities and email mean that engaging with clients abroad is easier than ever. Goughs Solicitors are adaptive to your needs and will adjust as necessary to accommodate time differences for example.

What are the limitations on using a UK solicitor?

UK based solicitors are entitled only to conduct legal matters for clients based in the English and Welsh legal system. Where a matter, perhaps of a criminal nature arises abroad, a UK based solicitor is not best placed to assist, because jurisdiction may rest with the local legal system. In these cases, generally the Service police will provide the support necessary. Likewise, in the conveyancing of property based abroad, it will be necessary to engage a local conveyancer. However, where property is based abroad, and the financial settlement is proceeding through the UK system, we can still assist in these cases.

How can Goughs help?

At Goughs we have considerable experience in advising and acting for people spread around the globe, whether they are service personnel or civilian. Many of our clients tell us that they find us invaluable as a listening ear and moral support, as well as their expert legal adviser. And, of course, they do need access to advice from a solicitor practising English law, as in family law matters it’s very likely that English law will apply to their situation.

So, don’t feel you’ve got nowhere to turn. Get in touch with Goughs. And if you do return to the UK, come and see us – it’s always great to meet face-to-face.

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Author Bio

Mark Hood

I completed a twenty-year Army career in the Royal Logistic Corps as an officer gaining particular experience in delivering training, recruiting officers, project management, advising governments, operations and planning, and even running a string of British Forces Post Offices. Changing tack to pursue a career in the law, many of the skills learned in the Army have proved directly transferable to this role.

I studied for my Graduate Diploma and Legal Practice Certificate at the University of Law in Bristol, completing the latter with distinction. I trained at a full-service law firm in the South West before starting at Goughs in the Family department. I specialise in Armed Forces pensions on divorce, advising clients on the best way to protect their pension. I understand the effect that life in military has when facing a relationship break down or other related family law problems.

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