International Divorces and Some of the Challenges the Parties Face

Bucks County and Central New Jersey have large immigrant communities, so it is not unusual for another country’s laws to impact the divorce of someone living here. No matter where the parties are or whose laws are used, the more reasonable and cooperative the spouses are, the easier the process.  

If you believe your spouse may file for divorce and/or child custody in another country, it is critical that we speak immediately to protect your rights as soon as possible. In the meantime, it is best to gather all of your IDs (and those of your children) and place them somewhere for safekeeping. Do not allow your spouse to take your children out of the country. 

What is an International Divorce? 

Another country’s laws may apply to a divorce, depending on the circumstances. When this happens, it is considered an international divorce. International divorces involve spouses married in another country or one or both of them: 

  • Live in another country 
  • Own property in another country 
  • Are another country’s citizens 

If you think you fall into this situation, contact our office immediately. International divorces can be like a complex machine. You do not want to get caught up in the gears, and what you do and when may impact the outcome. 

Why File for Divorce in One Country and Not the Other? 

Part of a country’s culture is its view of marriage, parenthood, and the equality (or lack thereof) between the sexes. That affects their laws. A country may provide less legal protection and rights to a wife than a husband when they divorce.  

Someone may file for divorce in their home country, not the US because they think the laws there are tilted in their favor. They believe it will be easier to get what they want through a trial or they believe the foreign country’s laws will give them negotiation leverage. 

Who Has Jurisdiction? 

The courts of more than one country may claim jurisdiction or the ability to decide the matter. Each country has its own laws and court processes. Every divorce issue can be impacted, whether that is child custody, child support, alimony, or division of assets and debts. 

One factor is where the initial filing was made. But it is not just a race to the courthouse. To have jurisdiction, the country where papers are filed must meet two requirements: 

  • It must recognize your marriage exists. In the US, most marriages that are legally entered into in another country are recognized. That is not always true in other countries, especially if a spouse wants a divorce in their same-sex marriage.  
  • The party filing the divorce must satisfy the country’s residency requirements. For example, if you do not live, and never have lived, in France, filing for a divorce in France would be a waste of time.

A “dual filing” occurs when one spouse files in the US and the other files in another country. US courts will consider several issues when they decide if they have jurisdiction: 

  • Where is the property at issue?  
  • Does the foreign court have a greater interest in the divorce? If so, what is it? 
  • Does at least one spouse live in the state where the divorce was filed? 
  • If it is a fault-based divorce or if evidence is needed in the case, which jurisdiction is where more evidence is located?  
  • Will the spouse living in the US face considerable hardships if forced to participate in the foreign jurisdiction? 

International divorces can involve complex issues, and judges may be forced to make difficult decisions.  

Jurisdiction is Only the Beginning 

No matter where proceedings occur, jurisdiction only allows a court to make decisions. What is left are the other issues in dispute. After the divorce is finally adjudicated, there are other potential problems when a party tries to enforce a divorce order from one country in another country. 

Get the Help You Need from an Attorney You Can Trust  

If an international divorce might be in your future, call us at (215) 608-1867 or schedule a consultation online now. You do not have time to waste, and you must make informed decisions to get the best outcome. We can discuss your situation over the phone, via a teleconference, or meet in our Langhorne or Doylestown office.