Tag Archive for: foreign decree

If you have adopted a child from abroad, there are several steps to take to finalize the adoption domestically. A re-adoption being filed in the United States can serve a few purposes. It can allow for an adoption decree that is in English. It can be required for immigration purposes. It may also be helpful for effectuating a name change of the child if not already completed.

The procedure for re-adoption in Bucks County is similar to domestic adoptions. It begins by filing a Report of Intent to Adopt. There is only one post-placement visit required that is usually completed by the agency the parties worked with for the foreign adoption. Once report is completed, petition for adoption can be filed. Copies of all the foreign documents (ex. Birth certificate, decree of guardianship, adoption decree) shall be translated if necessary, certified, and presented to the court for adoption hearing.

An alternative to refiling for adoption is to have a foreign decree of adoption registered with a local court. For this option the parents would file a certified copy of the foreign divorce decree with the court. It should be noted that no English language adoption decree will be issued, and the other issues addressed above will not be automatically resolved. A Pennsylvania birth certificate can be acquired through registration of a foreign adoption if at least one of the parents signs a statement regarding their US citizenship and PA residency. This allows the local court to register the foreign adoption with the Division of Vital Records as well.

A U.S. Court will recognize a foreign divorce decree under the doctrine of comity so long as the party has established domicile in the foreign country. As discussed in Hilkmann v. Hilkmann, [c]omity is a recognition which one nation extends within its own territory to the legislative, executive, or judicial acts of another. It is not a rule of law, but one of practice, convenience, and expediency. Although more than mere courtesy and accommodation, comity does not achieve the force of an imperative or obligation…Comity should be withheld only when its acceptance would be contrary or prejudicial to the interest of the nation called upon to give it effect. 2003 PA Super 25 (2005). A U.S. Court will invoke comity by its discretion and will usually look at two factors: whether the foreign court had jurisdiction, and whether fair procedures were used.

A U.S. Court will look to domicile as a basis for establishing jurisdiction. In Commonwealth v. Doughty, the court held “[i]t is an established and familiar principle that judicial power to grant a divorce is founded on domicile. In the absence of domicile by at least one of the parties to the action, the Court has no jurisdiction over the cause and its decree will consequently, not be endowed with extraterritorial effect.” 187 Pa. Super. 499 (1958). Accordingly, “[a]n absolute prerequisite to judicial recognition of an out-of-state divorce is that the plaintiff must have resided in the state or country for a minimum period of residency as determined by local authority and that the residency be accompanied by domiciliary intent, i.e., an intent to remain the foreign jurisdiction.” Sargent v. Sargent, 225 Pa. Super. 1 (1973). These principles extend beyond divorce and hold the same for other family law court orders as well as contracts.

Click here to read more about divorce in Bucks County.