Legal advice for divorce while overseas?
February 27, 2008 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Pending Divorce Filter: What legal resources are there for a soon-to-be-single mom working abroad?

I'm looking for legal help for a friend of mine who is going through a separation and a divorce abroad. Dropping a few details to keep this anonymous, so apologies if some of those details are important.

-4 y.o. daughter, mostly dependent on mother
-Marriage in States, on east coast
-First few years of marriage on west coast
-Moved to Europe
-Mother wishes to stay in Europe, as Europe offers stable employment in her profession and would allow her to stay in one city and raise her kid. (USA doesn't offer the same)
-Father wishes to move back to west coast and work there.
-Father doesn't want sole custody, but would prefer if mother lived on west coast
-Mother is somewhat concerned that if the father files for divorce on the west coast, that she will be compelled to move there at least for the duration of the divorce proceedings (which sound like in some states can take 3 years, effectively forcing her to find a new career).

Due to the complexity of multiple states/countries involved in this, where should she get legal advice? Is there even such a thing as an international divorce attorney? Especially appreciated would be cheap or free options [legal advice hotlines or what-not], but if less-cheap options are what will provide the right information, than those are the way to go.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (4 answers total)
Well, here's what the Department of State has to say about it:
posted by lockestockbarrel at 7:40 PM on February 27, 2008

Wow. Obviously each state is going to be different, and for that matter so will all the nations in Europe. Get a lawyer in Europe first.
posted by delmoi at 9:34 PM on February 27, 2008

You're going to need to pay through the nose on this one. Get the best attorney possible. Send me mefi mail, I might have a name for you.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:30 PM on February 27, 2008

Ok, some relevant information is missing, without which anyone is guessing.

I'm a long term American ex-pat (living in London); what are your terms of employment? If you're on a local contract then the onus is largely upon yourself. I say largely, and we'll come back to that later.

A full ex-pat contract will compel your employer to help out to some extent. Depending upon your field, your employer and other (missing) factors, this could range from a simple introduction / recomendation of a solicitor to taking on any and all costs necessary to achieve your goals. After all, they've relocated you / your family to another country. They want you to be happy (and productive). A nasty / protracted transatlantic divorice is hardly amenable to this goal.

I've been living and working outside the US for about one third of my adult life, and have known many folks that went through the same thing. Spot on about California, this precise situation happened to a colleague and she 1) had to return to the State (she wanted custody, father wanted custody, kid was in school in LA and MamaBear was advised the Judge wouldn't look kindly upon her living / working in Europe and dropping in for the odd hearing), and 2) couldn't leave with her daughter until it was all done & dusted. I seem to recall it was more a one year episode rather than three, but I might be wrong. In any case, messy, especially so as she just couldn't stand to live in the United States any longer.

Also a lot will depend upon the country you're living and working in, and how long you've been there. I knew someone with a similar problem, working in Norway and she defied a US State (New York?) court order (hubbie was abusive / substance abuser, etc, at least by her representation) and under those circumstances the Norweigans wouldn't compel her or the kid to leave. Of course think this through carefully; she didn't intend to ever return to the US and I suspect she'd have a problem if she ever did. But that was her choise. Last I'd heard hubby had started a rather internecine asset clash, and she was busily engaged in wealth protective measures e.g., establishing & funding offshore trusts, etc. Hardly productive and I suspect not good for the kid either.

Other nations over here might not be so protective; not to start an off the query debate, but I suspect England would simply ask for instructions if approached by a US State, as would most of the new EU entrants.

Finally, if you do end up pursuing this thing solo if you own a home do you might have some type of legal insurance that comes along for the ride when you purchase a mortgage (seems common in the UK). This might, if you're not on a full ex-pat contract, mitigate some expenses. Minimally, they might be able to (professionally, not AskMeTa quality) answer your queries wrt International Representation. Previous comments about making an introduction would be germane here, and would be the best you could probably hope for unless you're on good terms with hubby. It's clearly best for all to keep this out of court. I'm thinking money for the parents and family for the kid.

All the best!!
posted by Mutant at 3:26 AM on February 28, 2008

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