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International Divorce Proceedings: 4 Considerations in Property Division

How is property division handled in an international divorce? Can your spouse refuse to give up a property that is held overseas, even in the face of a court judgment? While it’s a complicated answer to a complicated question, there are a few things you should consider before going ahead with your international divorce.

#1 – Figuring Out Jurisdiction (Where to Divorce)

The outcome of your international divorce will be greatly influenced by location: where will your divorce issues be decided? To answer that question, you’ll have to understand the two kinds of jurisdiction: subject matter jurisdiction, or a court’s ability to hear your particular case, and personal jurisdiction, or a court’s ability to make a binding decision for you. A court will need both types of jurisdiction to have the power to hear your divorce case.

Both types of jurisdiction will depend on the country’s laws. If you want to file in Connecticut, you’ll have to meet the residency requirements, which can be fulfilled in one of three ways:

  1. You or your spouse has resided in Connecticut for at least 12 months before filing for divorce
  2. One of you lived in Connecticut at the time of marriage, and you returned with the intention of staying permanently until you decided to divorce
  3. The cause for your divorce came up after either one of you moved into Connecticut

Which court will ultimately decide on your divorce? In the United States, it’s the first court with jurisdiction that issues a ruling on your divorce. In the European Union, it would be the first jurisdiction in which the divorce is filed. If more than one country qualifies to hear your divorce, and you’re in conflict with your spouse about the location, you should consult a competent attorney for answers.

#2 – Valuing Your Property

The court deciding your case will have the power to value your property before it is divided. When you have international property in different countries, it can be tricky to place a value on your property. If a Connecticut court ends up handling your case, the court will value your international property according to the laws and taxes of the country where it is held. After that’s done, you will move on to the asset and debt division stage.

#3 – Dividing

Again, property division will be done according to the laws in the country where your divorce is being decided. Connecticut is an equitable distribution state, so if you end up divorcing there, your property will be divided according to that concept. It essentially states that your assets will be divided equitably (or fairly), if not equally, according to several different factors like the length of your marriage, each spouse’s income, whether you have children, and so on.

#4 – Enforcing a U.S. Court Order Overseas

When your spouse doesn’t agree with a divorce judgment about a piece of international property, enforcing the court order becomes a complex matter. Many countries will refuse to enforce an international divorce order. Both spouses must do the necessary paperwork to complete the property transfers. If this isn’t possible, you should speak with your lawyer about the next possible steps.

You should never attempt an international divorce—or any divorce, for that matter—without a highly qualified attorney. The family lawyers at Freed Marcroft can help you navigate the complicated divorce issues unique to international couples. Contact us for an assertive and detail-minded approach to divorce law.