Divorce Jurisdiction: Where to file?
August 13, 2018 1:24 PM   Subscribe

If you were married in one country, but live in another, and have multiple citizenships, where do you file for divorce?

Asking for a friend. YANML, TINLA applies. Proper legal counsel will be retained, once we know where this needs to happen.

My friend lives with her husband in a country where a spouse may only file for divorce on the following grounds:
- adultery
- cruelty
- desertion for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before filing the petition
- living separately for a continuous period of at least five years immediately before filing the petition,
- homosexual acts, sodomy, or sexual relations with an animal
- rape by the husband

and that's it. In the case of adultery, the court requires the adulterous partner to be made a co-respondent to the case. The laws also stipulate that if the court sees any potential for reconciliation from either party, they deny the petition for divorce.

They were married in the US, in Vegas. She is a dual-citizen of the US and a third country. He is a citizen of a fourth country, and holds a publicly-visible governmental position in the country in which they live and his country of origin.

All of this information is to ask: Can she file for divorce in Vegas, or does she have to do it where they live?
posted by The Imp of the Perverse to Law & Government (15 answers total)
 
I was married in Las Vegas. And also divorced, but not in Nevada! Here is the Family Law Self Help Center with information about divorcing in Nevada. Important points

- One spouse (or both) must live in Nevada for at least 6 weeks before filing for divorce. These are the shortest residency requirements in the US.
- Nevada is "no fault"
posted by jessamyn at 1:41 PM on August 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


IANAL: My understanding is that one can divorce in a/ny country where one retains legal residence. So if they haven't lived in the US for some time and are considered essentially, tax residents of Country D, then I believe (unfortunately) that Country D is the one that has the authority to grant a divorce.

BUT...surely there is online (free) legal information in Country D to establish whether my conjecture above is true.
posted by Halo in reverse at 1:42 PM on August 13, 2018


Addendum: Yes, perhaps if your friend can establish residency in a new country (or state) quickly on her own, then she can file there. I guess a worry could be that he attempts to file in Country D before then...in which case, I'm not sure what happens.
posted by Halo in reverse at 1:45 PM on August 13, 2018


Country D would need to accept the validity of the Nevada or other jurisdiction divorce. . . but its not clear from your question whether Country D ever recognized the marriage. You say they got married in Vegas - does the country where they reside recognize (all) out-of-jurisdiction marriages? A friend worked in divorce litigation and once told a story about a couple that was attempting to divorce when the soon-to-be ex-husbands lawyers figured out that the US state in which they lived recognized only valid weddings performed elsewhere, and that the couple had conducted an illegitimate wedding at their only ceremony in Mexico. long story short they didnt need to get divorced because as far as their home state was concerned they had never been validly married.

There are plenty of places with restrictive marriage rules (non-religious and/or gay Israeli's have to leave the country to get married) I would think that a country with such a narrow view of the legitimacy of divorce . . . might also look askance at marriages from other places?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 2:08 PM on August 13, 2018


The person should probably get legal advice in the country where they live. If a country makes it so difficult to get divorced, there's a good chance they might not recognise one done in another country. There are far too many unknowns, and too many specifics to give good enough advice, I would say. Anecdotes of getting married and divorced in different US states are most likely not useful.
posted by ryanbryan at 2:37 PM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah, surely this is a lawyer question? Sounds like the kind of complicated legal situation that absolutely needs a lawyer to answer.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:18 PM on August 13, 2018


Are both married parties on the same page about wanting a divorce to happen, or is your friend wanting to divorce an unwilling-to-divorce spouse? There are jurisdictions where even non-residents can obtain a no-fault divorce if both parties are in agreement (the Dominican Republic is one), but this is pretty rare, and it's possible that Country D will not recognise such a divorce, and indeed may only recognise divorces conducted in-country and in accordance with its own divorce law, regardless of the parties' citizenship(s).

Unfortunately, the original marriage jurisdiction has no bearing on how a divorce will work.
posted by halation at 3:34 PM on August 13, 2018


Things to consider: Where does she really need the divorce to be recognized? Where will she live afterward? If elsewhere, and if country D won't recognize the divorce, how big a deal is that -- is there some way her legal marital status in that country will still matter? Are there ancillary issues, like assets to be divided, alimony to be granted, child custody, or child support? What courts will be able to decide those issues? (E.g., a court may have a residence requirement for one spouse to get a divorce at all, but may need to have jurisdiction over the other spouse to enter an alimony order.) Or is just changing her marital status enough?

Absolutely start by discussing these considerations with a lawyer where she lives, preferably one with international family law experience. Shouldn't be hard to find: if divorce law there is that restrictive, she's not the first person to have considered filing elsewhere.
posted by rossmik at 4:01 PM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm a lawyer, albeit not yours. What others have said above is correct: determining your jurisdictional options here will be part of that proper legal counsel you mentioned. For perspective: I assisted a client who'd been married in a country with particular marriage-procedure requirements—religious authority first, followed by a legal filing—and who had subsequently piled-on complications from two other countries before coming here to the US...and, to shorten the story, it was complex.

If your friends were just average Jane and Joe and the divorce were amicable, then there would be two answers. First, the practical: yes, they could probably file in Vegas; nobody will look too closely at the jurisdictional issue, and they'll get their divorce judgment. But the legal effect of that judgment could be questionable, which brings us to the second answer, the legal: it's impossible to say where they can file without knowing exactly which countries are at issue.

But you aren't describing average Jane and Joe. It sounds like your Joe is famous and possibly not on board with divorcing, so on some level the question becomes, "If Jane files for divorce in Vegas, can Joe make a ruckus out of the jurisdictional issue?" Very possibly yes, he can. Jane's lawyer will need to take a look at the specifics.
posted by cribcage at 7:19 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


This sounds like Cameroon where there is a showing-of-fault requirement for divorce, courtesy of the legacy of colonial French and British systems.

Typically, your friend would need to file for divorce where she currently lives. Anywhere else, and she’ll be deemed to have abandoned her house and will be considered at fault if the husband later files for divorce. This will have consequences if children and assets are part of the equation, namely she may be required to pay him an alimony and she won’t get custody of the children. And I think the place of residence matters but the nationalities involved not so much.

But this really is a question for a lawyer in the country where she currently resides.
posted by Kwadeng at 8:27 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the quick replies - I knew it would highly dependent on the laws where they are, and I was trying to be vague in the initial question for google indexing purposes. Let me clarify a couple of things:
- there are no children involved
- They live in the 242 area code, which is a very small place, and it's difficult to do anything like consult a lawyer (or therapist) on the down-low.
- when she leaves, my friend will be returning to Calif. where she's from, and where her family and the rest of us are. She has no interest in remaining in that country.
- She expects him to put up a fight, of the "please don't leave me!" variety.

I'm trying to help her prepare to do this in the least-messy way possible, for her and for him. He's been keeping a girlfriend one the side for at least a year (there is documented proof) and has recently gotten sloppy about hiding it - we think he knows she's planning to leave and is trying to force her hand. While that is legit grounds to file for her, exposing his other activities would also bring attention on her (much more recent) activities. So, bad news all around on that front. There may be leverage in offering to keep all that quiet and out of the courts.

Again, lawyerlawyerlawyer is 100% right. I'm just trying to do some info gathering before she pulls that trigger.
posted by The Imp of the Perverse at 2:53 PM on August 14, 2018


I suspect her best chance of a smooth divorce is to leave first, establish residency in the US (which is different from citizenship), and then file for divorce according to the laws of the state where she resides. In California, that's 6 months in the state and 3 months in the county of the filing; she may opt to move to Nevada temporarily, with its much shorter residency requirement.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:26 PM on August 14, 2018


Given my experience with similarly-situated, similarly-small locales, the fact that he occupies a publicly-visible governmental position and is from there, while she is not, does not bode super-well for her case, unfortunately. If she wants to leave him, and has no desire to remain there, and has the option of returning to a solid home base, I second ErisLordFreedom's suggestion of moving to CA, establishing residency, and proceeding from there (with the help of a good lawyer).
posted by halation at 6:59 PM on August 14, 2018


You shouldn't make things more complicated than they are and divorce procedures are very common, even in the 242 area code. If there's a clear case of adultery, she should hire a lawyer, of which there are plenty (her Embassy probably has a list of lawyers they work with), and take if from there. The husband may contest the grounds, but if she has proof, the divorce will be granted in her favour. This will take time, probably many months, as judges take a very lenient view of male adultery and she will be asked to forgive and reconcile. But she will prevail in the end.

Since there are no children, she could also take her suitcase and leave. But she should know that anything short of filing locally will be considered an abandonment of home and will put her at fault.

exposing his other activities would also bring attention on her (much more recent) activities

Unless there is something fishy going on...
posted by Kwadeng at 8:33 AM on August 15, 2018


The embassy is a great idea, thanks!

Unless there is something fishy going on...

She is not completely innocent in this regard, though to a much, much lesser degree.
posted by The Imp of the Perverse at 10:18 AM on August 16, 2018


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