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Is your foreign divorce legal in the United States?

On Behalf of | May 13, 2021 | Divorce |

You and your spouse were married overseas — but then you immigrated to the United States and became citizens. When your marriage fell apart, however, your spouse went back overseas to get a “quickie” divorce — knowing that you would be at a serious disadvantage that way.

Is this legal? Probably not. Here’s what you need to know.

Foreign divorces are only recognized when they follow certain rules

Comity (reciprocity) between any two countries is never a guarantee, but just like a foreign marriage, the United States will usually recognize a foreign divorce — with some exceptions.

A foreign divorce is given “full faith and credit acceptance” only when they meet the same legal standard that’s applicable in a U.S. divorce. This means:

  • There must be evidence that the party on the receiving end of the divorce received ample notice of the pending action and had time to respond.
  • The party who filed for the divorce must have lived in the country that issued the divorce in order to have jurisdiction over the proceedings.
  • The party who was on the receiving end of the divorce must have had a realistic opportunity to participate in any legal proceedings.

In other words, what your spouse did probably won’t fly in a U.S. court. Sometimes couples will join forces to get a foreign divorce and both can even participate. Still, the U.S. court will declare the divorce invalid simply because neither party was actually domiciled in that country. Your spouse’s attempt to skirt the rules isn’t likely to work.

If your spouse is trying to cheat you out of a fair divorce, get help

All that being said, you need good guidance in a situation like this. When a divorce gets complicated, you don’t want to try to handle things on your own. Talk to an attorney today to learn what steps you need to take next.