The stock advice in an international divorce case is to avoid England when acting for the wealthy party. However, issuing proceedings in a foreign country does not necessarily allow the wealthy party to avoid the effect of English law.
In the rest of the EU, one of the main considerations is applicable law. The English courts will only apply English law but this is not the case elsewhere and English law is routinely applied in courts from Rome to Paris.
Of course, in the majority of cases within the EU, courts will apply their own law. However, where the parties are nationals of another country or where the parties have a strong connection with another country (for example, the place where they both last lived together) then the court seised with the divorce can apply foreign law in relation to divorce, maintenance and the separation of assets.
If both parties are from England or have spent their married life in England then a court in another EU country is likely to apply English law in relation to some or all of the issues between them. This means that if a wealthy English wife is living in England and her unemployed Italian husband moves back home to Italy after living in England all their married life, she will not avoid the effect of English law by issuing divorce proceedings in Italy first.
Not only will English law be applied but the costs and the length of these proceedings will be increased and the outcome will be more uncertain as expert evidence of English law will be required and there is no guarantee it will be correctly applied.
It is therefore vital to take advice from an international specialist before issuing proceedings in any foreign country.