How to Get an International Divorce: The Process Explained

Meeting the love of your life in a foreign country sounds like a dream come true. But like many love stories, an international love story can quickly turn sour and lead to divorce. 

Navigating a divorce in any situation can be difficult, but it can be tough when you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are from different countries. Which country’s divorce procedures do you need to follow? How do you ensure your divorce is finalized in both countries?

Read this guide to learn how to get an international divorce. 

Understand the Laws in Your State 

It’s important to understand that not only do divorce laws differ from country to country, but they also differ from state to state. Before you move forward, make sure you understand where you can file for divorce and how you can serve divorce papers to your partner. 

Most states have different residency requirements when it comes to filing for divorce. For example, if you live in California, at least one spouse has to have lived in the state for six months to file for divorce there. In other states, you only need to have lived there for six weeks to file for divorce. 

As long as one partner fulfills these residency requirements, you can file for divorce, regardless of where the other spouse is at the time. 

Know How to Serve the Divorce Petition 

In most cases, you need to personally serve divorce petitions. This means that the divorce papers need to be handed to the other spouse in person. They cannot be sent by mail or fax. 

However, if your spouse lives thousands and thousands of miles away, this can be particularly difficult. Luckily, there are some possible alternatives, so you don’t have to pay for an expensive plane ticket. You can:

  • Ask for a Waiver: If it’s an amicable divorce, your best bet is to ask your spouse to sign a waiver. If they agree to sign a waiver, you can then serve the divorce documents via email, fax, or snail mail. 
  • Hire a Foreign Process Server: A foreign process server is someone who you can hire in your spouse’s country that can personally serve him/her on your behalf. While this can be expensive, it may be cheaper than buying a flight and serving the papers yourself. 
  • Service By Publication: If you know the city or country your spouse lives in but not their actual address, you can try to petition the court for permission to serve by publication. This means you’ll need to post a notice in their local newspaper about the divorce for a specified number of days (varies from country to country). Once you post the notice, your spouse will have a certain number of days to respond. 

The ideal situation is that your spouse will cooperate and try to find a way to get the papers from you and to you. However, we realize that spousal cooperation doesn’t happen in every divorce, which is why it’s important to know that you have other options should they choose to make things difficult. 

Hire a Lawyer 

Hiring a lawyer is perhaps the most essential thing to do when dealing with an international divorce. It’s important to hire a lawyer even in the most amicable of divorce proceedings, but it’s especially important to hire one when you’re dealing with an international divorce. 

Your international divorce attorney can help you:

  • Navigate international divorce laws
  • Figure out the best way to serve your spouse the divorce papers
  • Divide your estate with your spouse
  • Navigate custody battles in the event you have children
  • Handle the court process should your case go to trial 

Working with an attorney is the best way to ensure your divorce proceedings go as smoothly as possible. We suggest hiring an attorney who has experience dealing with international divorces. Ideally, you want to find an attorney who has experience dealing with divorces in your country and your spouse’s country. 

Know What to Do if You Live Abroad 

If you and your spouse live abroad, you may not have the option to file for a divorce in the United States due to state residency requirements. If this is the case, you’ll need to file for divorce in the current country where you’re living. 

Keep in mind that foreign countries usually also have residency requirements when it comes to filing for divorce. But even if you have to file for divorce In a foreign country due to residency requirements, most states in the US recognize foreign divorce as long as everything is properly documented. 

However, it can be slightly difficult to enforce certain divorce orders, such as child support and spousal support, with a foreign divorce conducted in another country. This is why it’s so vital to have an experienced attorney by your side during the divorce process. 

Know the Distinctions for Military Divorces 

Lastly, keep in mind that military divorce laws often vary from foreign divorce laws. This is because the military has its own codes and processes when it comes to divorce. 

If you or your spouse are a member of the military, you should consult with a lawyer who has military divorce experience. 

International Divorce: Time to File 

Now that you have a better understanding of what the international divorce process looks like, it’s time to start the process. Once you’ve made the decision to file for divorce, your first step should be to start researching attorneys with international divorce experience. 

While divorce can be messy, the above guide should help you get through the process. For more divorce info and advice, check back in with our site.