In this guide, we’ve summarized the most important parts of the international divorce process, but we still recommend that you get help from professionals to handle this type of divorce.
Governments have started to implement cross-border divorce laws very recently.
We advise that you get legal assistance from an attorney who’s familiar with the process and can help you successfully terminate your marriage. Otherwise, ending your marriage might turn out to be a lengthy process.
- 1 When the Filing Spouse Lives Overseas
- 2 When the Filing Spouse Lives in the United States
- 3 When your spouse lives out of the country
- 4 Overseas Divorce in the Military
- 5 Getting Help
When the Filing Spouse Lives Overseas
Getting a divorce while you’re residing outside of the US can be difficult.
At first, you must go over the local law of the country where you live and make sure all of your actions comply with those laws.
Afterward, get in touch with the local US embassy to obtain a reference to family law attorneys who specialize in this process. These professionals can help you expedite this process and complete it successfully.
Have a look around the U.S. Department of State’s website. It will refer you to the websites of U.S Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions.
Will the United States recognize a foreign divorce decree?
The US does recognize a foreign divorce decree but to a limited extent.
Most states in the US will accept divorce decrees from overseas states only if the country follows due procedure and if the decree meets certain legal prerequisites (for instance, due notice to both spouses).
Get in touch with the Attorney General of your state to get a specific answer regarding the validity of your overseas divorce. It wouldn’t hurt to seek legal advice from tenured family law attorneys in your state.
As long as the procedure in foreign land follows common standards, you shouldn’t have any problem getting the US court to recognize the validity of a divorce decree issued by another country.
In the eyes of the law, you’ll revert back to being single, but other divorce issues might be difficult to deal with.
For instance, if the marriage has produced children and they live in the US as official citizens, the foreign court won’t grant you or your former spouse the custody of the children.
Foreign courts do not have the authority to grant the custody of US children.
Even if an overseas court does make a custody-related decision, it may not be considered by the US courts. In this case, the local state court will not consider an order issued by a foreign country. The custody decision will have to be made in your local court and they’ll make a definite decision.
A foreign state also can not issue rulings about the division of marital property.
When the Filing Spouse Lives in the United States
If you’re a US resident and you want to get divorced from a foreign individual living overseas, get in touch with a tenured lawyer who can help you at every step of the process.
First, you must submit relevant divorce paperwork in the local court and confirm that you meet all state and local residency conditions.
You must also create a copy of the divorce petition and the proof that your spouse was “served”, except for the situation when your spouse chooses to skip process requirements.
If your significant other consents to skipping personal service of process, then your spouse can sign an affidavit to declare that they’ve been served. You can then use this document to proceed to the next stage of the divorce.
The divorce process can get a lot more complicated if the person you’re trying to divorce doesn’t permit you to skip the service of process or makes it difficult to complete service.
You’ll most likely have to abide by the laws of the country where that person lives. The steps involved in the process are clear if your spouse’s country of residence abides by Hague Service Convention.
You can follow the steps outlined in the convention and successfully serve your spouse. If Hague Service Convention isn’t followed, it will be up to you to decide how service can be carried out. Some countries allow you to complete the service by a letter request, also known as “Letters Rogatory”.
In other countries, a local authority or special agent must complete the paperwork service who will vouch that your spouse will receive the papers.
Either way, it’s advisable to consult with both domestic and foreign attorneys to make sure the service will be carried out without a hitch.
Afterward, the local state court must decide whether or not it has the jurisdiction to issue orders concerning the person you’re trying to divorce.
This will mostly be determined by your spouse’s contacts with the state.
There may be other factors that influence whether or not the court has the ability to issue orders that concern the person you’re trying to divorce.
Such factors may be: whether or not you wish to obtain custody, partitioning of marital property. Your legal advisors will need to thoroughly analyze the facts of your divorce and the laws in the foreign country.
When your spouse lives out of the country
Regardless of your spouse’s country of residence, it’s possible to file for divorce.
There may be more steps involved.
Your divorce must abide by the laws imposed by the state. If you want to start divorce proceedings officially, first, you must provide your spouse with the written notification and the signature as proof of acknowledgment on their part.
This is referred to as service of process. If the spouse lives outside of your country, they might be a bit more difficult to serve. Here are the steps involved to go through with the divorce:
Understand your state’s laws
Every state has a unique set of laws concerning divorce.
Residency rules and service requirements may be treated differently in every state. Before filing for divorce, first, you must comprehend the local laws that govern the service of the process.
You can get in touch with your local family court to gain a deeper knowledge of the rules. Another option is to hire an experienced family lawyer who can provide invaluable help throughout the divorce.
Complete and file your divorce petition
Once you can comprehend the rules imposed by your state, you can officially submit the divorce petition to the court in your county.
Contact the court or have a look around their website to find out about documents you need to file for divorce. Upon petition submission, you’ll have to pay a sum of money.
You must carefully lay out your plan for property division.
This includes physical assets as well as money. If your marriage produced children, you also need to summarize the plan for custody, visitation, and child support. You might have to fill out different forms to draft your plans.
Divorce can be very simple when there’s no disagreement between two parties.
Serve your spouse
Afterward, you’re obligated to serve your partner, regardless of his or her physical location.
If your spouse lives overseas, contact the embassy to figure out the local guidelines for serving court documents.
For instance, the embassy can give you information about hiring a process server in a different country.
You can serve the documents using a postal service unless there’s a rule against it. Make sure it is a certified return receipt. This will give you leverage in the court if the delivery is contested.
In some cases, it’s possible to carry out the service by using a publication like a published notice.
If the circumstances allow you to notify the person you’re trying to divorce using a publication, get in touch with a local paper in the town where your partner resides.
Your spouse can simplify the process by agreeing to waive service. This way, you aren’t required to deliver the documents. To do this, first, you must come up with a waiver of service document. Then your spouse can sign it and save you the trouble of sending documents overseas.
Things can get messy if the person you’re married to tries to avoid service or refuses to sign the waiver. In this case, you’ll have to abide by the laws of the country where he or she lives.
If that country happens to follow Hague Service Convention, you can follow the international service of process guidelines. If not, you must figure out the way to officially notify them.
Certain countries might allow you to complete the service using a letter request, also known as” Letters Rogatory”. In other countries, may be required to use the central government’s authority to serve the papers. You can also hire an agent who specializes in serving the papers.
Either way, we recommend that you book an appointment with qualified attorneys here and in the foreign countries where the service must be carried out.
Continue with your divorce
If your spouse has been served or permits you to skip the service, your divorce can proceed to the next step.
If there’s a disagreement on any issue, your partner will have exactly the same rights and privileges as you to contest these issues.
The divorce can progress even if they refuse to communicate or show up in court. Refer to local laws in your state to find out what is appropriate waiting time.
Before issuing any orders, the local court must determine whether its authority extends to your spouse.
They will usually consider your partner’s involvement in the state.
The court will also consider your custody requests and issues regarding the division of marital property.
If you hire legal experts, you should ask them to thoroughly analyze the circumstances of your country and the foreign country where your partner lives.
The divorce process is usually complicated. It can get even messier when you’re trying to divorce someone who lives in a foreign country. You’ll need qualified lawyers to speed up the process.
Overseas Divorce in the Military
Divorcing a military member may turn out to be more complicated than divorcing a civilian. The military has its own guidelines for getting a divorce.
There are many lawyers familiar with the process of military divorce. Hire one of them to make sure that every step of the divorce process goes smoothly.
Regardless of your particular situation, divorcing spouses who live in different countries should consult their situation with an attorney. Your attorney can suggest the most practical solution in your particular circumstances. A qualified lawyer can also make sure that your divorce is official and protect your rights throughout the process.