The Growing Challenge of International Divorce

Posted on Dec 06, 2012

Divorce wasn’t pretty in the United States even a mere 30 years ago. In the era before no-fault divorce, most marriages ended in bitterness and vindictiveness. Children were used as tools to hurt the other party. The idea that a divorced father could be a reliable custodian for his children was seen as absurd.

It’s nice to believe that we have grown more sophisticated as a society since then. The trouble is, as recently reported by Reuters, that many of the worst practices in American divorce from three decades ago are still commonplace for international divorces today.

When parents have dual citizenship or are living as resident aliens with their spouses in another nation, the breakup of a marriage can entangle the couple—and their children, if any—with confusing (and sometimes contradictory) directives from two nations, as well as a clash of cultural expectations and expensive fees.

Nobody collects firm statistics on the dimensions of this problem, but anecdotal evidence suggests that international divorce is a growing problem. Ken Altshuler, the president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, told reporters that rising conflict over children indicates that international divorces are becoming more common and more contentious. “We’re seeing more parental kidnappings, more conflict, more litigation and simply more to fight about,” Altshuler said, and also, “Back in, say, 1975, or even in the 1980s, if a woman wanted to move her kid to Brazil, she would have, and nobody would have challenged that because the man was not going to win.”

Which law applies?

Divorcing couples can struggle over every issue, including which set of divorce laws apply—those of the father’s native county, or the mother’s. Initially, there is a tendency to look to the laws of the jurisdiction where the couple lives, but if one parent whisks the couple’s children off to another nation, the situation isn’t clear at all. Whichever spouse files for divorce first may then get an advantage in determining which nation’s laws will apply.

The Reuters article makes it clear that this is a crucial decision, because rights and legal precedents in each nation vary widely. “As a general rule,” the author notes, “divorce and dual-citizen issues are easier to manage in the United States and Europe. Laws that greatly favor men’s rights over women’s make navigating a divorce in the Middle East and North Africa especially challenging.”

Don’t lose your legal rights by delaying

An international divorce can split apart families and make it impossible for a parent to ever see his or her children again. Likewise, if your divorce happens in the wrong jurisdiction, a foreign court may make decisions about property you own without your agreement—and possibly without your knowledge.

If your marriage is broken and your spouse was born in another country, you need experienced legal advice right now before a foreign court can intervene. Call 877-593-4233 today to be connected to an experienced North Carolina family law attorney who can give you the advice you so desperately need. Our team can initiate legal action in New Hanover County at the earliest possible moment to secure you the rights to your children and your property, even if your marriage disintegrates.

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Trial Lawyer and Founder of Speaks Law Firm, P.C.