Sign Up for
Wendi's Thoughts

Global Guide to Divorce Available at your local bookstore,  amazon US, amazon UK
Jack Jack the Cat

International Divorces

International divorces are becoming more common for many reasons. People choose work assignments at their company’s offices around the globe. There is movement of people between the member states of the European Union. Students study abroad, marry someone from another culture and then return home with their new spouses. With a divorce rate of 40 to 50 percent in Western countries, it is inevitable that people will be divorcing someone from abroad or as expats in a foreign locale.

The key and possibly most important aspect of international divorce is to be the first one to file for it. What country handles the divorce is paramount to its outcome. Do not discuss wanting a divorce with your spouse as this gives them the opportunity to file for it first, in a place that may be less advantageous to you. Divorce laws, division of assets and spousal support vary vastly between countries and US states. Speed is essential when it looks like you two may be going your separate ways, so meet with an international attorney right away. International attorneys may work with a local one, but the first item on the agenda is to decide in which country to file for divorce. The first country who receives the filing is usually the one who handles the couple’s divorce, even if the spouse files at a later time in another place.   Most countries have federal guidelines, but a few such as the US, Canada and Mexico have regions/states which have their own rules.

One has options where to file for divorce. Connections to the county of one’s birth, upbringing or permanent home is where they are domiciled. If a couple from abroad works and intends to live in their new country, this is habitual residence. Filing for divorce in the country of their habitual residence requires a specified amount of time to have lived there, usually at least for one year. If an Italian and a Canadian are living in the US while working long term for a company, they would have several choices where to file for divorce. They could in the state where they currently reside. Or either may file in the country of their birth. Tax consequences and immigration issues are other reasons to seek advice from an international attorney before filing for divorce. For example, when a Mexican national marries an American and is living in the US, getting divorced could affect their status to remain in the States. When obtaining a divorce in a foreign country, an international attorney will make sure it is valid in your country. One aspect that governments check, is that that the other spouse was informed of the divorce filing and had adequate time to respond to it.

There are web sites for online calculations which give an idea of what alimony and child support could be in various circumstances. These are for different states and countries. They are basic guidelines of what to expect, but do not replace expert legal advice. I made up a mythical situation with kids and salaries to compare rates in various states and countries. The differences were hundreds of dollars a month which emphasises the importance of where one files for divorce. Courts in some areas have the reputation of being extra generous to those who gave up careers to be stay-at-home parents and your attorney will know about this. Please read more