Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction

Contents

The criteria to have your case heard

To get a divorce or dissolution in the courts of Northern Ireland you must be able to show that the courts have 'jurisdiction' to hear your case. This means that the court has the authority to hear your case and make decisions that it can enforce.

You need to show that one of the following statements is true:

  • You and your spouse or civil partner are both habitually resident in Northern Ireland.
  • Your spouse or civil partner is habitually resident in Northern Ireland.
  • You and your spouse are both domiciled in Northern Ireland (not applicable to civil partnerships).
  • You and your spouse or civil partner were last habitually resident in Northern Ireland and either you or your spouse or civil partner still lives there.
  • You are habitually resident in Northern Ireland and you have lived there for at least a year immediately before issuing the petition.
  • You are domiciled and habitually resident in Northern Ireland and you have lived there for at least 6 months immediately before issuing the petition.

Each petition must detail the grounds of jurisdiction. If none of the above grounds of jurisdiction apply you should consult a solicitor. It may be that you will be able to proceed on the basis that no Contracting State has jurisdiction under the Council Regulation and either you or your spouse or civil partner is domiciled in Northern Ireland on the date when this petition is issued.

Domicile & Habitual Residence

Domicile

You are domiciled in the country in which you have, or are deemed by law to have, your permanent home. In some cases, you may have no permanent home, but the law requires you to have a domicile. Similarly, you may have more than one home, but you can have only one domicile.

Domicile of origin

The domicile of origin is gained at birth. It will be the same as the father's if the child is born to married parents or the mother's if the child is born to unmarried parents, until proven otherwise. It is not determined by the place of birth.

This domicile cannot be taken away, but it can be suspended if a domicile of choice or a domicile of dependence is acquired.

Domicile of dependence

Children under 16 and people suffering from mental incapacity can acquire a domicile of dependence based on the domicile of the person on whom they are legally dependent.

Domicile of choice

Any person, not legally dependent on another, may at any time change their existing domicile and get a new domicile in another country if they intend to:

  • Make their sole or principal permanent home in that country of residence; and
  • Continue to live there indefinitely.

It doesn't matter how long they choose to live there, as long as they have the required intention.

Habitual residence

Habitual residence means that a person lives somewhere regularly and is only away temporarily. To establish habitual residence a person must be physically present in a particular place voluntarily and with the intention to remain there for a significant amount of time.

The test of habitual residence is where a person has substantial links with a country that they live in.