How to Handle Divorcing Across International Borders

Flicker, Kerin, Kruger & Bissada LLP

An international divorce is when a couple pursues divorce while living in separate countries. According to legal convention, the country (state and county) in which a person lives has jurisdiction over legal matters. When a legal dispute involves people in different countries, determining jurisdiction can be more complicated. 

If you and your spouse no longer reside in the same country, you can still pursue a divorce. However, you should understand how varying international laws will impact, and potentially complicate, the process.

Divorce and International Law

International divorces are particularly complex because countries have different laws pertaining to family law matters. The laws that apply to divorces in the United States frequently differ from those in other countries, making every international divorce unique based on which country the parties reside in. 

Many countries have implemented treaties with the United States to streamline family disputes and reduce the potential for conflict. These treaties state the instances in which the U.S. and the other signatory will cede jurisdiction if there is a dual filing. For example, if a spouse files for divorce in the U.S. before the other spouse can file in the U.K., the U.K. courts will likely grant precedence to the U.S. case. This precedence allows the court to make decisions regarding the couple’s marital status and any assets within the country’s borders. The court may also issue rulings regarding other assets the couple owns and support orders from one spouse to the other. However, enforcing these additional decisions and orders can be difficult. 

There are currently no reciprocal treaties in place that require the U.S. or another country to enforce family court orders with respect to support and property division, issued by the other. If a U.S. court issues a spousal support order, a U.K. court is not required to enforce it. In some instances, countries which have close ties and similar laws to the United States will decide to enforce foreign orders and vice versa, but this is never a guarantee. If a foreign court refuses to enforce an order from the United States, the spouse may need to initiate a new case in the other country to resolve the matter. 

Expert Counsel for International Divorces

If you are considering a divorce but your spouse is currently residing in another country, do not let that deter you. Reach out to the skilled divorce attorneys at Flicker, Kerin, Kruger & Bissada LLP for assistance navigating this process. Schedule your consultation today to discuss the best approach for your situation.

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