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Is a Foreign Marriage or Divorce Valid in the United States?

Towson Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Clients With Foreign or Out-of-State Divorces.

Many people find it tempting to get married outside of the United States because of its romantic appeal. On the other side, getting a divorce outside the country may seem more accessible or less expensive. However, both scenarios may not go as easy as you would think, as the question of whether the U.S. would recognize your marriage or divorce as valid would arise.

Each marriage and divorce is different. The validity of a foreign marriage depends on where the marriage occurred, and if there was specific documentation similar to that in the U.S. Suppose there is a lack of documentation when married outside of the country. There is a good chance that the marriage would not be viewed as official in the U.S. The couple may need to fulfill additional requirements when returning to the states, whether for a divorce or a marriage.

Marriage and Divorce Recognition in the States

There is a particular process for divorce in the states that every couple must follow. Reciprocity, or comity, between two countries will usually mean that the U.S. would recognize a divorce with a few exceptions. If the foreign divorce met the same legal standards as it would in the U.S., it is usually accepted:

  • If there is evidence that both parties had received enough time of the pending divorce to respond and assess the situation.
  • If the person who filed for the divorce must have lived in the country that issued the divorce.
  • The person receiving the divorce papers must have a realistic opportunity to be heard within these proceedings.

A U.S. state, including Maryland, will likely reject a divorce performed outside of the country if neither spouse lived in the country that issued it; this questions whether the government had the authority to do so.

Comity must exist in a foreign divorce for recognition in the U.S.; this is true for most states. However, both spouses must have adequate notice of the divorce, which includes serving the process, at least one spouse living in the country where the divorce is sought, and a fair hearing for both sides must occur.

A foreign divorce may require one spouse to reside in the country where they seek the divorce during the entire process. This spouse must remain in the country while the other spouse is given notice of the divorce if they are not in that country. Some countries may require the spouse to be served the divorce to travel to the other country where the divorce occurs, or they must have a lawyer there to represent them. The spouse may need to register the divorce with the U.S. embassy of that country; if there is no embassy in that country, they may need to travel to where one is located.

A legal marriage in the U.S. affords both spouses benefits and rights that would not be valid if the U.S. does not recognize it, similar to a divorce. The rights of a U.S. marriage give both parties rights to support the wedding and impact a divorce. Some of the rights a married couple would gain include:

  • Inheriting from the other spouse’s estate.
  • Receiving Social Security benefits, Medicare, and disability benefits from your spouse.
  • The ability to file joint income tax returns will allow more significant deductions.
  • Being able to apply for insurance benefits from the spouse’s employer.
  • Make medical decisions for a spouse should they become incapacitated or unable to communicate independently.
  • The ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit against another party should the other party cause the death of a spouse.

A marriage performed in another country by two U.S. citizens is usually considered valid if legal. If there were acts that would invalidate a marriage in the U.S. but performed in the other country, then the marriage would indeed be invalid. These acts include incapacity, bigamy, blood relatives, and underage marriages.

Most countries require you to have a residency in the country to validate the marriage, mainly if a religious ceremony is performed. If this is the case, a civil union would have to be completed in the U.S. to recognize the marriage as official.

Divorce Outside of Maryland

If a couple seeks a divorce outside of their home state of Maryland, Maryland will recognize the out-of-state divorce if that jurisdiction has similar due process rights. The divorce may be considered invalid should the spouse attempting to obtain the divorce not establish residence in the state issuing the divorce or if they did not have jurisdiction over both spouses.

Although another state or country may grant a divorce, a court in Maryland can make decisions regarding the married couple’s property should one of the spouses live in Maryland when the divorce proceeding begins. This is also the case should the court that granted the divorce lack jurisdiction over the spouse that lives in Maryland or jurisdiction over the property.

Obtaining a Lawyer

When a divorce is questioned, a lawyer may need to be hired in another country. This would help with the legal process and laws of the other country to prevent violations and explain what steps need to be taken and when.

When dealing with another country’s laws and regulations, getting married or divorced in that country is not easy. There are many benefits obtained by a person when they become married and when a spouse is divorced; ensuring that these benefits become valid is extremely important to a person’s life. Hiring a divorce lawyer is essential whenever the validity of a divorce is questioned.

Towson Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Clients With Foreign or Out-of-State Divorces

A foreign divorce is complicated without the help of a lawyer. If you are planning to divorce, you should contact one of our Towson divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC. Call us at 443-589-0150 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we proudly serve the communities of Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.

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