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Is an overseas divorce a good idea?

Some folks can't wait to get married so they head to Vegas or another hot-spot where there's no mandatory time period before they can get hitched. Others feel the exact same way about their divorce. When they want out, they want out right away.

Since there's no place in the United States to get a quick divorce, it might sound like a good idea to make a weekend trip to The Dominican Republic or Haiti. The laws are lax in those countries (and several others), making it pretty painless to get a divorce virtually in a matter of hours.

Unfortunately, that quick overseas divorce isn't necessarily going to be valid back in the United States. Marriage and divorce are under the control of state laws, not federal ones. There is nothing in the law that requires the individual states to recognize a foreign divorce.

Whether or not the state will recognize your divorce as valid depends on a variety of factors:

  • Were either you or your spouse actual residents of the country where you divorced?
  • Were you both present for the divorce?
  • If your spouse was not present, was he or she given adequate notice of the divorce and opportunity to attend the hearing or contest the proceedings?

The state places a great deal of importance on the idea of fairness. If you and your spouse both had equal opportunity in court, the divorce is likely to be recognized. If you didn't, the state probably won't consider the divorce valid.

In addition, there's another important concern that has to be addressed. Is there any reason that your divorce might be against public policy? For example, if you went overseas in order to obtain a better custody agreement or spousal support order than you would have received in Ohio or another state, that would be against public policy because it violates the intentions of the laws in the state.

In general, overseas divorces are risky whenever they're obtained by citizens of the United States just for convenience.

Source: LiveAbout, "Foreign Divorce: How Do You Know If It Is Valid?," Cathy Meyer, accessed May 04, 2018

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