Looking for love in far-off places isn’t exactly new for Americans. They’ve been doing for decades, whether it involved soldiers bringing home their brides after overseas service or couples meeting during family visits back to the “old country.” However, the Internet has opened up a lot of new possibilities for long-distance dating. In addition, those who have affluent lifestyles often spend part of the year abroad — making it highly likely that they’ll meet someone they want to romance.
For those who find love and marriage across borders, there can be additional problems when a couple with different citizenships divorce. It can turn an already complicated situation into something chaotic.
If you’re facing an international divorce, here are the concerns you need to address with your attorney:
Should you file for divorce in the United States? Where you live most generally determines the jurisdiction of a divorce proceeding — not where you were born or married. If you make your home base in the United States, that might not be an issue. If you split your time between two countries, however, this could be a problem.
Attorneys sometimes see couples race to get to the courthouse first because they can’t agree where to file. The laws in one country may favor one spouse over the other when it comes to property agreements, spousal support and custody.
Even if you both live in the U.S., your divorce can still get complicated when you hold assets in another country. Property and bank accounts that are subject to foreign laws may be difficult to divide — and it may be even harder to enforce the division if a foreign government won’t enforce a domestic ruling.
This can be an especially thorny issue if parents don’t work together. The threat of a parental abduction is very real — and it isn’t easy to get a foreign court to turn over a child that it sees as one of its own country’s citizens just because a U.S. judge says so.
Because of these issues and others, a divorce involving a spouse from a foreign country is something that you should plan carefully. Your family’s future, emotionally and financially, could depend on it.