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International Divorce Litigation

The international workforce in today’s world is progressively more mobile,thus there has been an increase in international marriages.  There are a variety of issues surrounding international divorce and a major one includes where to file.

Filing for Divorce in the U.S.

If you live in the United States and your spouse lives abroad, you may be able to file a divorce petition in your domiciled state.  “Domicile”means the place of residence that you treat as your permanent home.  Petitioners file for a petition for dissolution of marriage in state courts in the state they are domiciled in.  Similarly, the petitioner can file for divorce ex parte, which means they can file without their spouse being present; however, in order to obtain orders regarding marital property division or spousal support, the court must have personal jurisdiction over both parties.

Obtaining Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction refers to the official power to make legal decisions and judgments. Similarly, personal jurisdiction refers to the power of a court over the parties in the case.  Upon filing for a petition for dissolution of marriage, the petitioner allows the court to have personal jurisdiction over the petitioner.  In order to obtain personal jurisdiction over the respondent (e.g. the spouse of the petitioner), the court looks to the respondent’s domicile, state statutes, and/or whether the petitioner served the respondent within the domicile.

Service of Process

Usually, the petitioner or agent of the petitioner must personally serve the petition.  This means that the petitioner likely cannot mail or fax the petition.  This can be especially problematic if the petitioner’s spouse lives abroad.  There are alternatives to personally serving a respondent such as, obtaining a waiver, serving by publication, and hiring a foreign process server.International Divorce Litigation

Filing Abroad

If you and your spouse live outside of the United States, you can file for a divorce petition in your host country.

Potential problems with divorce overseas

Although filing for divorce overseas may speed up the process or allow a more favorable distribution of property, the U.S. may or may not recognize the overseas decision.  The state generally decides whether to recognize the dissolution of marriage.  Usually, states consider the residency of spouses, public policy and other relevant circumstances.

In in the United States, international divorce cases are often complex and difficult.  We highly recommend consulting an experienced attorney regarding international divorce questions.  If you have questions about the topic above or other legal matters, please contact us.  We will be happy to assist you.


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