A whirlwind romance in a foreign country is the plot of plenty of movies. However, these movies never go into the difficulties of a multinational marriage. Relationships that cross borders are subject to unique stress. Everything from language barriers to emigration struggles can cause these unions to break down. There’s another problem that movies never mention: the complications of an international divorce. Splitting from a spouse who’s in a different country takes much more work than even interstate divorces.
If you’re in a multinational marriage and see the end in sight, you should understand what to expect. Here’s why these splits are so complicated and how to keep the process on track.
Complications of International Divorce
Obviously, a divorce affects both you and your partner. When you aren’t citizens of the same country, that’s a problem. Every country handles the separation process a little differently. While US states do as well, there’s no international equivalent of the federal court system to handle law disputes.
That means that the separation process requires a lot of cooperation, or it can get messy. Here’s what you’ll need to coordinate across borders.
Choosing the Country
You can avoid many potential problems if you and your spouse agree on which country’s laws you’ll follow. Many countries will treat foreign nationals like citizens when it comes to divorce proceedings. All you need to do is agree to have the divorce handled in one country over another. However, other countries are biased against non-citizens. Do your research carefully before making a decision.
As an American citizen, you’ll usually be best served by following American laws. Your soon-to-be-ex won’t experience bias the way you might in another country. It will also prevent complications from foreign laws and court systems.
If your partner disagrees with the choice of country, that’s when things get tricky. Luckily, you can file for ex parte divorce where your spouse isn’t present. This will let you follow US laws anyway.
Once you’ve chosen the laws to follow, it’s time to get the divorce started. To officially begin a separation, you need to serve your spouse with divorce papers. US law requires you to personally serve papers or hire a process server to present them. If your spouse is already abroad, it’s generally easier to hire a foreign process server than visit yourself.
If you or the process server can’t find your spouse, then you have a problem. You’ll need to petition the court for permission to waive the serving process. If you get approval, you can publish a notice where your spouse is likely to see it instead.
The final complication is deciding how assets will be divided. US divorce orders are only applicable to people and property within the US. Any assets that are outside the country are going to be much harder to divide. If your spouse is trying to hide assets in other countries, you may need to work with attorneys there as well.
For example, if you and your spouse bought a home in France, that house is only subject to US law because a US citizen owns it. If your name isn’t on the deed, it will be difficult to force your partner to share ownership of it. You’d need to work with the French legal system and show that you’re divorced in the US.
Similarly, if your spouse is in the country, then US law applies to them. They can be held accountable to give you your fair share of the marital assets. However, if your spouse isn’t a citizen and isn’t in the country, there’s no civil law that can touch them.
Any assets they left in the country are considered your joint property. Everything else is subject to the laws in their home country. You’ll need to work within that system if you want to get your fair share.
How to Handle a Multinational Divorce
If you’re considering a divorce and your partner’s not American, you’ll need to be prepared. Before you even serve them papers, you should do your homework. Even in amicable splits, information is power. The more you understand about your situation before you start the divorce, the more likely you are to get a fair result. Here’s what you should do before you file for an international divorce.
Document your assets in all countries. It’s much easier for people to hide assets overseas than it is in the US. Before you bring up a divorce to your partner, make sure you know what assets you share and where they are. You should have a comprehensive list of bank accounts, investments, real estate, and other property you share, along with where it is.
Make sure your name is on anything you want to keep. Next, make sure you’re listed on any assets that matter to you. Many countries will honor US legal orders if you can prove that you have a right to a piece of property. Make sure your name is on any accounts and deeds that you want to keep.
Get an attorney. International divorce is not for the faint of heart. It’s always a good idea to work with an expert attorney when you’re splitting up. Once international law and finance come into play, an expert attorney becomes essential. Consulting with a qualified high-asset divorce attorney will help you ensure that your divorce is fair and your assets are divided equitably.
Don’t Let International Law Alarm You
Divorcing a non-citizen is hard, but it’s still worthwhile. If your marriage is ending, you shouldn’t be afraid to call things off because the legal element is complicated. You deserve to have the life you want, not be stuck in an unhappy relationship.
That’s why you should connect with the expert international divorce attorneys at Kaspar & Lugay, LLP, today. Let them handle problematic international laws so you can focus on moving forward. There’s no reason to put off the inevitable. The sooner you take that first step, the sooner you’ll be free to enjoy your new life.