Divorced Overseas? Here’s What You Need to Know

Getting divorced is a stressful and complicated process at the best of times. It is a huge upheaval that will have a lasting impact on your life, but the process gets even more complicated when borders are involved.

By Roman Winter
October 11, 2016
divorced overseas

With more and more couples heading overseas to get married or building a life together overseas, this, unfortunately, has dramatic consequences for divorce proceedings.

It is also, sadly, a strategic decision, as many countries differ in their legal approaches to divorce. While some countries favor a clean financial break, others will encourage a continued financial relationship through alimony (spousal support). So while a country like the UK would favor an ongoing financial relationship in the form of child support, other places in Europe such as Spain would push for the parties to have a clear financial break, which could include selling your family home and splitting the value. For this reason, it is important to make a considered decision when you have a choice regarding which country to begin divorce proceedings in.

Will My Divorce Be Recognized?

It is vital to ensure that your divorce will be recognized in the United States. At present, the United States has no international treaties in place with other countries to observe divorces which take place outside of US jurisdiction. This doesn't mean that your divorce won’t be recognized in the US, just that you might need to take a few extra steps. If you’ve undergone divorce proceedings in another country, don’t worry, as divorce decrees are generally recognized in the US on the basis of comity. Comity basically means that provided that both parties had notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard throughout the proceedings, then the divorce decree will the recognized.

Whom Does This Affect?

If you married in the United States or overseas, and/or you were ordinarily a resident overseas at the time of divorce proceedings, you may be wondering if your divorce will be recognized back home. If you started divorce proceedings anywhere other than the United States, then you will need to take extra steps to ensure your divorce is recognized at home. Another thing to note is that, once you’ve started divorce proceedings in one country, you can’t switch to another legal system. The only reason that the United States might fail to recognize your divorce is if there is a reason to believe one party was not domiciled in the country where divorce proceedings took place.

How Do I Authenticate My Overseas Divorce in the US?

Even if you plan to remain overseas, you might still want to authenticate your divorce in the US for peace of mind. To do this, you will need a certified, authenticated, and/or translated copies of your foreign marriage and divorce certificates. You can then apply to have your document authenticated by your local embassy or consulate. This simply recognizes the divorce certificate by placing an American seal over the seal from the foreign court, making it a valid divorce document in the United States.

What Happens Next?

In a country like the United Kingdom, which is a popular destination for American professions to live and work, divorce proceedings are largely similar to the US. There is also the added advantage that court documents won’t need to be translated. However, if your visa status was dependent on your marriage status, then you might need to take steps to ensure you are allowed to stay in your new home. Contact an immigration service to confirm if you are eligible for indefinite leave to remain, or another visa track that will allow you to continue building your life overseas.


Roman Winter is an aspiring freelance writer with a passion for law, politics, and education. He has written for several different publications and hopes to educate readers with his writing. www.iasservices.org.uk

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October 11, 2016

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