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International Divorce: A Quick Solution?

People who want to quickly end their marriage may travel to another country to seek an international divorce. If you file for divorce in another country, you'll have to take several precautions to ensure that your divorce is recognized in the United States.

An international divorce will probably be valid in the United States if both spouses are aware of the divorce proceedings. In other words, the spouse remaining in the United States must be formally notified that his or her spouse has filed for divorce in another country.

Types of International Divorces

In general, there are four types of international divorces:

  • A bilateral divorce occurs when both spouses are physically present in the country where the divorce case is being heard, or one spouse is physically present in the country and the other spouse is represented by a local divorce lawyer
  • An ex parte divorce occurs when the spouse who filed for divorce is physically present in the country and the other spouse, who is not in the country, has been formally notified of the divorce proceedings
  • A practical recognition divorce occurs when one spouse is unable to challenge the validity of the foreign judgment because the challenge would be unfair under the circumstances
  • A void divorce, which is not recognized or enforced in the United States, occurs when one spouse obtains a divorce in another country without notifying his or her spouse

Why Consider a Foreign Divorce?

There are many reasons why people file for divorce in other countries, but the majority are filing overseas because the laws are more favorable. In some instances, the laws allow for a faster divorce. In other cases, there may be more favorable alimony or property distribution laws in another country.

What Countries Are Popular for Divorce

According to Wikipedia, the most common jurisdictions for foreign divorces are the Dominican Republic, Guam, Haiti and Mexico.

"Haiti, Mexico, and The Dominican Republic are fairly similar in this regard. These are countries people typically go to get an overnight/long weekend divorce, or to get a quick and relatively painless contested divorce (which are not valid unless due process has been observed).
"Quick divorce in the Dominican Republic is available to foreigners or Dominican citizens residing abroad, when both spouses agree to file this divorce before Dominican [c]ourts. This procedure is very simple and only requires the attendance of one of the spouses during the hearing which takes usually less than half an hour and you can leave Dominican Republic the same day in the afternoon. It takes [10 to 15] days to obtain a divorce decree."

Issues to Consider

States are not legally required to recognize a foreign divorce. Before deciding whether an international divorce is valid, the state will consider:

  • Where does each spouse live? If neither spouse was a resident of the country that granted the divorce, the state is not obligated to recognize it. However, if one spouse has established residency in that country, the state may recognize the divorce.
  • Did the other spouse receive adequate notice of the foreign divorce filing? Every state requires you to formally notify your spouse if you file for divorce. States have that same notification requirement even if you've filed for divorce in another country. In deciding whether to recognize a divorce, the state will consider whether the defendant spouse received sufficient and timely notice of the divorce filing and hearing dates.
  • Does the foreign divorce offend public policy? There have been many stories in the news about parents who flee to another country and then file for divorce to gain a favorable custody decision. If a state court thinks the spouse who filed for divorce had malicious intentions when filing for foreign divorce, the court is unlikely to recognize it.

Before you file for divorce in another country, consider talking to a U.S. divorce lawyer to ensure you take the necessary steps so your divorce is recognized in the United States.