Foreign Country Divorces

By Lauren Williams

map-mexicoMany people believe that they can go to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti or another foreign country and obtain a “quickie” divorce without the knowledge or appearance of their spouse.  Depending on your state’s divorce laws, this may or may not be recognized in this country.

There is such a thing a Mexican “mail order” divorce.  In other words, you would fill out a document and send it to Mexico and be divorced literally through the mail.  This is not recognized in this country as a valid divorce or ending of the marital relationship since none of the bases for divorce jurisdiction in a United States court are met.

Another type of foreign divorce action is referred to as “ex parte”.  Ex parte means that just one party, in this case the spouse filing for divorce in the foreign country, is actually physically present at the divorce proceeding in that foreign country, without having become “domiciled” in that country.  It also means that the other spouse was not present at the proceeding, did not participate in the proceeding and was not personally subject to the jurisdiction of that country.  Again, these types of actions, like the “mail order” variety, are not recognized usually in this country.  If the spouse did become “domiciled” in the foreign country (meaning he or she actually lives there), under that country’s laws, then the divorce proceeding may in some instances be valid.

If both parties, the husband and the wife, both personally appear before a foreign court to obtain a divorce under the laws of that country, then the divorce may be valid in the United States.  The reasoning behind this is simple.  As a matter of public policy, there is no state interest in denying recognition of a divorce if both spouses participated in the action, absent any evidence of duress or fraud or to otherwise evade the law of the spouses’ home state.

On rare occasions, American states have recognized foreign divorces that were granted for religious reasons and not in a foreign court of law or under a foreign country’s judicial system.

It is very important to note that if you are thinking about seeking a foreign divorce, check with an experienced divorce attorney in your domiciled state to insure that you are not foregoing any rights that you may have in that state.  Although you may think that a “quickie” foreign divorce is what you want, remember that you may not then be able to take advantage of the laws of this country and your state which could have been of great benefit to you.

Lauren Williams

About The Author

Lauren Williams is a legal writer for WomensDivorces.com and the USA Law Network.