Foreign Divorces: Expanded

It is not uncommon for married couples looking to dissolve of their marriage to seek a divorce in a country other than the United States. There are plenty of reasons why people might look elsewhere for a divorce:

  • The husband or wife might originally hail from a foreign country;
  • A party who is from a different country or speaks a different language might be more familiar or comfortable with a different country’s judicial system;
  • The parties may have gotten married in a different country;
  • The legal procedures involved may be less complicated overseas;
  • The barriers to divorce may be lower;
  • Some countries have special laws for foreigners seeking divorce within their borders;
  • The party or parties may have family or friends abroad who are willing to assist in the divorce process in their country;
  • The whole process might be easier and/or, what is often the case, cheaper.

For any one or more of the reasons above, many couples opt to outsource their divorce. This is not necessarily a bad choice, as some countries really do make it easier on the divorcing couple. Sometimes it really is the right choice.

But other times it’s not. Sometimes couples who get divorced outside of the U.S. run into problems back in America. Not all foreign divorces will be recognized by U.S. courts. There are certain conditions that must be met in order for a foreign divorce to be validated by a court here in the U.S.

For example, there are certain “notice” requirements that must be met. According to U.S. law, both parties of a marriage are entitled to a certain level of notice that the other is seeking a divorce. One spouse can’t simply file for divorce in Antigua without informing the other spouse, be granted a divorce by an Antiguan judge, and expect to have that divorce validated back in the U.S. That wouldn’t be fair to the spouse who had no idea that any legal process regarding his marriage/divorce was even going on.

Another scenario in which people might run into an issue is with a “mail order divorce.” A mail order divorce is when neither party physically goes to the foreign jurisdiction in order to obtain the divorce; rather, they remain in the U.S., file for divorce, and obtain their divorce decree without ever having stepped foot on foreign soil.

Typically, at least of one of the parties must make an appearance in the court of foreign jurisdiction in order to satisfy United States conditions for validation of a foreign divorce. Often, depending on the country, at least one of the parties must actually reside in that country at the time of the divorce filing.

Other worries regarding the validity of foreign divorces include concerns about certain statutes of limitations, the presence of fraud or duress on either or both of the parties, and quite a few other issues. While foreign divorces can be (and often are) honestly and justly obtained and recognized back in the U.S., other times, foreign divorces may cause more problems than they solve.

If you were divorced abroad or are thinking about getting divorced abroad, you should contact a lawyer who can advise you on the matter. The last thing you want is to go through the divorce process abroad, return home, and be denied the right to remarry or obtain certain benefits - or to have your citizenship affected.

Contact a family/matrimonial/divorce law firm such as the seasoned attorneys at Peter L. Cedeño & Associates in New York for a consultation.

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