Some US citizens live abroad in unhappy marriages and have questions about filing for divorce. This overview of international divorce gives you a better understanding of the process, but handling a foreign divorce on your own is not wise. It is a relatively new and complex field of law that is better led by an experienced attorney who offers guidance through the process and makes sure your divorce is legally binding.
Complex legal questions come up when filing for divorce outside of the US. You need to adhere to local law to divorce in many cases. If this applies in your location, the local US Consulate or Embassy can provide you with a list of lawyers to help get the process underway. You can find a list of US Diplomatic Missions, Consulates, and Embassies with website links at the US Department of State’s website.
To a certain extent, it will, but not in every circumstance. As long as the foreign country ensures that you meet specific procedural requirements during the divorce process, most states will recognize divorce decrees from outside the country. To find out if your divorce is recognized in your state or viewed as valid, contact the Attorney General's office in your state or an experienced international law attorney in Orlando.
Though most US courts will recognize your international divorce decree as a termination of your marital status, divorce orders from another country may not be valid for handling your divorce issues. For example, if you have children who are US citizens but you filed your divorce abroad, most foreign courts will not even issue orders regarding custody of US citizens. But if they do, the court is not required to honor such orders and will instead issue its own custody orders because it has jurisdiction over the children when they are American citizens. In addition, foreign divorces might not be effective for dividing property, like retirement benefits, in the US.
You will need to speak with an international divorce attorney in Orlando if you live in the US and want to file for divorce from a spouse who lives abroad to make sure you meet all the necessary demands. You will first need to file a divorce petition in your local court and ensure that you meet state and local residency requirements. You will also need a copy of the petition, and a summons served on your spouse unless they agree to waive the process requirements. If your spouse agrees to waive their process right, you will need an affidavit signed by them stating they have been served to file with your local court to move forward to the next step in the process.
Things may get a bit more complicated if your spouse insists on service of process or tries avoiding service. You often need to comply with the laws for service of process for the country they are residing in. If your spouse's country is a part of the Hague Service Convention, it will govern the international service of process. If they are not, you will have to determine how the service needs to be completed. Different countries tend to have varying requirements for the service process, so it is best to work with an attorney in the US and one in the foreign country to ensure the service of process is handled effectively.
Finally, the court in your state will determine whether it has authority to make orders over your spouse, which often depends on the level of contact your spouse has with the state. It also depends on whether you seek orders regarding the division of property or child custody. Your attorney will carefully analyze the case facts and laws regarding the country where your spouse resides.