Couples who are facing divorce are often unprepared for many of the obstacles that are presented — especially when disagreements and emotions are running high. Adding to an already stressful and life-altering experience, international couples can face even more complications due to laws in other countries that are disparate from the United States.
Whether you own property in another country, have concerns about international child custody issues, or one spouse lives overseas, here's what you should know about international divorce so you can prepare for the road ahead.
What is Jurisdiction in international divorce?
The following must be considered when it comes to jurisdiction in international divorce:
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
A court that has subject matter jurisdiction is permitted to hear certain cases that involve international family law.
A court that has personal jurisdiction can make decisions regarding one or more parties involved in a case. Even if a Florida court doesn't have personal jurisdiction over both you and your spouse, a legal and binding divorce can still be entered if specific criteria are established:
- There is subject matter jurisdiction over the divorce
- There is personal jurisdiction over one party
- The other party is served through a recognized means of service
Common Obstacles to Overcome with Jurisdiction and International Divorce
There are some instances in which more than one country can have jurisdiction in your international divorce case. Here are some common complications to be aware of to be proactive in your case:
In some instances, Florida courts may be limited in the ability to handle some matters regarding the property division. In such a case, more than one jurisdiction may be necessary for proceedings. Consulting an experienced attorney can help you determine which jurisdiction is best for handling property as opposed to the jurisdiction that is the best to file your primary divorce.
When you and your spouse have minor children, Florida courts have jurisdiction if specific criteria are met. The court may not have jurisdiction over children if the requirements involving children are not met, even if the court has the authority to distribute property and grant a divorce.
Child Support and Alimony
Florida courts must have personal jurisdiction over the payor to be able to order child support and alimony payments.
International custody cases are even more challenging for international couples. While both parents may want what's best for their children, it can be a steep road when coming to an agreement on how to rectify child custody issues. Some common concerns that many parents face when it comes to international custody may include the following:
- How to handle international relocation of the children
- How to implement child custody arrangements
- How to enforce custody arrangements
- What to do if children are abducted by one parent
For international paternity cases, these issues related to minor children will apply as well as rules in which determine where an international paternity case may be filed.
Filing for an International Divorce
The process of filing for an international divorce starts with determining jurisdiction and any potential international treaty law which determines how a party may be notified of divorce in addition to the requirements of Florida law. Filing for an international divorce is complex and attempting to handle it on your own will be a daunting task, thus compounding any issues that you are trying to resolve.
The first step is to serve a divorce petition, which can be complicated if one party is living abroad. Here's how you may be able to get the process started should your spouse live out of the country:
Waiver - in the case of an amicable divorce, your spouse may be willing to waive personal service, which can allow you to serve papers by mail.
International Treaty - if a waiver is not an option you may be able to serve your spouse based upon procedures established by an international treaty.
Foreign Process Server - if a waiver is not an option, and there is no applicable treaty, you may be able to have a process server in your spouse's country to personally serve documents for you.
Service by Publication - This can allow you to post a notice in a local publication such as a newspaper for a specific period, and your spouse will be presumed served.
If you are unsure about how to get the serving process started, consult with your international divorce attorney to determine the best plan of action that is suited for your particular case.
A divorce in Florida may settle your international divorce case if:
- Your case does not involve property
- Your case does not involve children
- The Florida court has subject matter jurisdiction over the divorce
- The Florida court has personal jurisdiction over one party
- Notice to the other party has been served through a recognized means of service of process.
Before you file for divorce abroad, it's imperative to enlist the help of an attorney who is experienced in international family law. Having an attorney on your side can guide you through the process, relieve concerns, and ensure that you and your children are protected.
Contact Ilvento Law, P.A. today at (407) 915-3438. With over twenty years of experience, we will help you get through the toughest of divorce challenges.