Laws related to marriage and divorce exist at the state level. That means the federal government does not have any say in whether your marriage is legal or your divorce is valid. Each state recognizes marriages from other states, but things get more complicated when you are dealing with family law matters from other countries. If your spouse has ties outside the U.S. and you are heading toward divorce, you may be concerned and confused.
You may wonder why it matters whether a foreign divorce is valid in Virginia. The fact is that your divorce can affect many federal issues, including your income taxes, your Social Security benefits and others. Additionally, if you hope to marry again in the future, you will want to be certain your divorce is valid. How can you obtain that assurance?
Is my divorce valid?
In most cases, the U.S. recognizes a divorce that is valid in another country as long as both parties know about the divorce and have an opportunity to respond to it. You do not necessarily have to be present in the other country for the divorce to be valid, but the foreign court must know you are aware that the process is taking place. You may send an attorney or representative to the other country for a finalization hearing.
Of course, every marriage and every divorce is unique. Your situation may involve issues that bring the validity of your international divorce into question. Generally, the U.S. government or the state of Virginia may determine your divorce is invalid if your spouse went to another country to seek a divorce without informing you. Additionally, many U.S. states and some foreign governments will raise questions if you and your spouse travel to another country -- one in which neither of you resides, for the purpose of getting divorced.
Your unique situation
You may face other serious issues if your spouse is not a U.S. citizen. For example, you may have concerns that your ex will remove your children from the U.S. or hide marital assets in another country. You may also have a difficult time obtaining the documents that prove your divorce is valid so you can move on with your life.
For any issues or concerns that arise from an international divorce, you would certainly benefit from experienced legal counsel. You will want an advocate who is knowledgeable of international family law and who has a network of overseas resources to assist in helping you meet your goals.