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Is a divorce from a foreign country valid?

by | Feb 16, 2013 | Divorce |

In almost all cases, a divorce in a foreign country is not recognized in Massachusetts and probably the same in all other states. Each state is a separate government. As a general rule, each government is free to ignore the legal rulings of other governments.  This doesn’t apply o divorce decrees of other states.  Each American State is subject to the US Constitution which contains a clause called the “full faith and credit clause.” This clause is contained in Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution and requires every state to give full faith and credit to the judicial proceedings of other states. This means that a divorce granted in one state must be recognized in another state. However, the full faith and credit clause doesn’t apply to foreign countries.

There are individuals who advertise inexpensive quick divorces in foreign countries. Take a trip to this foreign country and get a divorce without any waiting periods. In some of these ads, the spouse doesn’t even need to be notified. The people who advertise these are essentially travel agents. In many states, including Massachusetts, it is illegal for someone to advertise divorces of this nature. These divorces won’t be recognized in Massachusetts. Even if both spouses participate in a foreign divorce, it is unlikely that a Massachusetts Court will recognize the divorce as valid. In other words, the parties are still married to each other even though a court in a foreign country has ruled that they are divorced.

There are some exceptions where a Massachusetts court may find a foreign divorce valid. Where a citizen of another country gets divorced in the country where they are a citizen, if the proceedings meet a sufficient level of due process and notice, then a Massachusetts court is likely to recognize the divorce as valid. This is based on concepts of justice, due process, and fairness. However, without a jurisdictional basis such as foreign citizenship, it is unlikely that a foreign divorce will be recognized.

As a general rule, this is a complicated area of law. It is best if people consult an experienced divorce attorney before they spend the money for a trip to another country to obtain a divorce.

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