What is an International Divorce?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 01 February 2020
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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.


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Post 3

I read two very interesting statistics the other day. It said that there are more interracial marriages in the world then ever, but interracial couples divorce more than couples of the same nationality.

That means the rate of international divorce is going up and it's probably going to continue rising. I actually don't think that lawyers in America are very experienced about international divorce, well that's what my German lawyer friend says anyway.

He thinks that Europeans are the most experienced in international divorce cases because of the European Union and people constantly crossing borders. That makes sense, although I'm sure there are plenty of Canadian-American and American-Mexican marriages as well.

Post 2

I don't know if there is any truth to this, but I would imagine that some people file for international divorce to get away with smaller child and spouse payments or maybe to win custody of children.

I know that not all countries reward as much monthly payments to mothers and kids as the United States. Every country has a different custody law as well. I would be afraid to get an international divorce outside of the U.S. thinking that my rights would be inferior to my rights in the U.S.

That's why I'm glad that the U.S. doesn't recognize all international divorces. Actually, I wish that prior to recognizing any of them, the government could find out the rights awarded and custody granted by the other government. If an international divorce was filed to increase someone's rights and lessen their spouse's, then I don't think it should be recognized by the U.S.

Post 1

My parents had an international divorce. They actually divorced in their home country and then submitted paperwork to the U.S. government to be recognized with divorce here as well.

It was not very difficult to do, of course except the name change that my mom had to deal with. She had to renew all of her official identification documents in both countries because she decided to return to her maiden name. But that was really the only part that was a hassle.

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