If you’re a dual citizen, married to a citizen of another country, or you live overseas, it can be tricky to pursue a divorce in the United States. International law can often prolong an already long and complex process. Generally speaking, you must file where you reside. Each of the states has its own residency requirements, but if you both live abroad, you’ll have to file for divorce in your country of residence. Assuming you’re filing with an American court, some of the following scenarios may apply to you.
- You own property overseas
If you and your spouse are divorcing in the United States and you have marital property in other countries, the process of property division can be confusing. Your international property is valued according to the laws and tax system in that particular country. When it comes to dividing property, the court will follow the rules of the state issuing the divorce order. Enforcing the divorce order can get even more complicated, since not all countries will recognize an American court ruling. It may be possible for your spouse to show up abroad with the property and refuse to give it up, in which case you’ll have to do some travelling to decide the matter in overseas courts.
- Your child’s “home state” is outside of the US
Your divorce case will be handled in the state where you reside, but depending on a few factors, you may have to settle child custody matters in another jurisdiction. Based on the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), American courts consider the child’s “home state” to be the location where your child has lived for six months, or a location that has significant connections for your child. As a result, a US court may rule on most of your divorce issues and then decide that your child custody matters must be decided elsewhere.
- Your ex-spouse travels abroad with your child
If your ex-spouse leaves the US with your child, in defiance of your child custody orders, you may have a long legal battle on your hands. This is considered child abduction, whether or not your spouse realizes or intends it. The Hague Convention on Private Law aimed to streamline the process of returning internationally abducted children, but it can only be enforced in one of the 75 member countries. If the other parent lives in a non-member country, make sure your custody agreement prohibits the parent from taking your child to that specific country.
- You receive alimony from an overseas ex-spouse
Alimony can be tricky where international law is concerned. If were granted alimony in a US court but you live abroad, you’ll usually have to pay tax on that money, unless a specific treaty says otherwise. What if you live in the US and your overseas spouse stops paying court-ordered alimony? In many cases, you can only enforce the order by physically getting your ex-spouse back into the US.
If you believe your divorce may involve international law, you should contact a family lawyer as soon as possible. The attorneys at Freed Marcroft will help you enforce court orders obtained in the US and prevent future issues to the best of their abilities. Give us a call to discuss your situation with an attentive, compassionate source of legal counsel.