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Multiple countries, multiple headaches in divorce: part one

Divorce is hard no matter what, but Americans who are living abroad, dual citizens or married to someone from another country can face twice the trouble when trying to end a marriage. Divorce can be a complicated process under the American court system but when more than one set of laws and courts is involved, issues can multiply.

For example, figuring out where to divorce can be difficult, particularly if you were married in one country but are living in another. Typically the court where a couple lives has jurisdiction over the divorce, even if it is not the system under which they got married.

Extra complications arise when spouses are living in different countries. For example, if one spouse visits another country and lets their visa expire, they cannot return to facilitate a divorce. In such cases, the other person has to travel and pursue the divorce in the country where their spouse is stuck, possibly having to navigate a foreign court system at their own disadvantage.

The same is true if one spouse is in another country with property that's at issue in the divorce. And if spouses disagree over the best venue, whoever files in their country first chooses where the divorce will move forward.

Generally, it is easier to divorce in western countries like the United States and European nations. Strikingly different cultures, religious values and gender roles make dissolution in the Middle East and North Africa more difficult.

Next week we'll discuss how dual citizenship and immigration can play a part in child custody disputes and how best to protect your interests in international family law matters involving children.

Source: Reuters, "Divorce in two countries is double the trouble," Geoff Williams, Oct. 24, 2012

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