High Risk of Complex Divorce for Couples Living Abroad

Many Illinois residents have jobs that take them overseas or are married to individuals who live and work abroad. Such a lifestyle can be very rewarding, and can bring adventure, cultural enrichment and more to spouses and their children. When a couple is living abroad and the marriage falters, however, a complex divorce can follow. For spouses who are living outside of the United States and thinking about divorce, it is absolutely crucial to devise a smart legal strategy before moving forward.

While the laws concerning jurisdiction vary from one country to another, the general rule is that a divorce and accompanying child custody case will be heard in the country where the action is filed. This means that timing plays a critical role in achieving a favorable outcome. It also means that a spouse who wishes to file for divorce must take a proactive role in that process.

The situation can be complex in a number of ways. For some expat spouses, it has been many years since they lived in a United States jurisdiction, and there may have been numerous moves between that time and the present. However, as long as the spouse still retains American citizenship, filing in this country should be possible.

In order to determine one’s best options, expat spouses who would like to file in Illinois should work with an American attorney to discuss the pros and cons of different filing strategies. It is also important to gain familiarity with the complex divorce laws of the country of one’s current residence, in order to decide if a favorable outcome is probable within that jurisdiction. Child custody matters are especially tricky, as many nations follow the provisions of the Hague Convention, which typically require that custody matters be heard where the case is initiated, and that the children remain within that country.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Divorce, Global Style: For Expat Marriages, Breaking Up is Harder to Do“, Debra Bruno, March 18, 2015