International Divorce and Foreign Divorce Decrees

With many people living and working abroad after being married in the United States international divorce is becoming more of a common practice. International divorce cases may be very complex due to the laws of the country in which the parties currently reside.

There are several issues that must be analyzed when dealing with an international divorce case. Some of the issues include:

  • Jurisdiction. Which country has jurisdiction over the entire action or part of the action?
  • Grounds. Some states require that the parties state grounds supporting the request for a divorce and others do not. Some nations also require proof of grounds supporting the request for a divorce as well.
  • Agreements. Both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements may be considered.
  • Business. If a foreign business is involved, all of the issues such as valuation, division, debt load, and profitability must be considered.

There may be a treaty or a provision in the Hague Convention that may apply to the international divorce action. The party seeking the divorce or his or her attorney should check to see if any treaties or the Hague is applicable.

Property Division

Property division may be a tough area to delve into with respect to an international divorce. Often times parties have property in more than one country and it may be difficult to value that property due to differences in currencies and the fluctuation of the value of the currency in the country where the property is located. An evaluator may be hired in both countries to determine the value of certain property or assets. If the country is a fault-based divorce country, the property division may be influenced if one party is found to be responsible for the divorce.


Depending upon which jurisdiction the divorce proceedings will take place, custody may be favored for either the mother or father. In a number of foreign countries the father is the favored custodian. This is due in part to how women are viewed in other parts of the world. Religion may also play a favor in awarding custody in foreign countries. Moreover, if the divorce proceedings are taking place in a fault-based country, fault may play a role in the court’s decision regarding custody.

Alimony, Spousal Maintenance and Child Support

Foreign countries differ greatly on the decision of whether to award alimony, spousal maintenance, and child support. Some countries such as Japan have established child support guidelines, however many others have not. As mentioned in the preceding sections, if the divorce action is taking place in a fault-based country, fault may play a role in the determination of any type of support to be awarded to the party that engaged in the fault.

Foreign Divorce Decrees

Not all international divorces are recognized in the United States. For example, if parties live in the United States and go to another country to obtain a fast divorce, that divorce decree may not be recognized in all of the states. In most cases, state courts will not permit a foreign divorce decree to cut off one party’s right to an equitable distribution of the parties’ assets and debts.