An international divorce is what a government grants to foreign citizens who no longer wish to continue in a civil marriage initiated in another jurisdiction. During these proceedings, besides a legal decree ending the marriage, a jurisdiction may also decide on a distribution of assets, as well as child custody and visitation arrangements. Just as divorce laws vary from region to region within a country, international divorce laws also vary by country. In some countries, including the United States, divorces granted in an alien jurisdiction may or may not be enforced or even recognized as legally valid in a couple’s home country. Some countries also do not grant foreign divorce decrees, such as the Philippines, where neither foreign nor domestic divorce is allowed.
Also known as a foreign divorce or an offshore divorce, some people choose an international divorce based on the geographic location of one or both spouses at the time of the marriage’s demise, while others opt for an international divorce as a way to save on court costs in a home country or to expedite a divorce process. It is entirely possible, however, that a couple can apply for and be awarded an international divorce in one country, but still be considered legally married in the couple’s home country. For instance, a couple married in the United States, but where one or both spouses sought divorce in the Dominican Republic, may be surprised to find out that they are not recognized by the United States as actually being divorced since the United States reserves the option to reject or accept such divorces as valid.
In matters of child custody issues, an international divorce may be granted in a foreign country, while the country where the couple and the couple’s children reside may determine child custody and visitation. Similar jurisdiction may apply with regard to the distribution of a couple’s combined assets. All of the matters typically decided in a native divorce settlement, therefore, may involve multiple countries in cases of a foreign divorce.
While an international divorce may be granted more quickly in another country than would be allowed in a couple’s home country, the opposite may also be true. A lengthy investigation of circumstances surrounding a divorce, as well as the distribution of assets, can often delay proceedings. Other foreign divorce delays may be due to laws in other foreign countries where a couple has lived prior to filing for a divorce in a separate alien jurisdiction. Overall, such divorces can be quite complicated depending on the individual circumstances involved.