Wail Sarieh
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How To Serve Divorce Papers Overseas

Divorce

If you are seeking a divorce and you are living in the United States, you should go ahead and file for the divorce in the state where you reside – even if your spouse is currently living in a foreign country.

The fifty states have each established legal residency requirements for divorcing, so if you file for your divorce here in California, at least one spouse must have lived in our state for a minimum of six months.

For an international divorce, you are going to need the insights and services of a good divorce lawyer who has substantial experience handling international divorces.

In southern California, obtain the advice and representation of an experienced Orange County divorce attorney from the very beginning of the process – even before you file for the divorce.

HOW ARE INTERNATIONAL DIVORCE PAPERS SERVED?

Usually, divorce papers must be served directly and personally to the spouse who isn’t filing for the divorce.

Divorce papers generally may not be served by fax or mail. But what can you do if your spouse is living, for example, in a remote location in a huge country like Russia, China, India, or Brazil?

If your spouse is living in a foreign country, you will have at least these three possible options for serving divorce papers:

1. A waiver: If you and the spouse you are divorcing are on good terms, go ahead and ask your spouse to “waive” his or her right to personal service. When you file your spouse’s signed waiver with the court, you may serve the divorce papers by fax, mail, or by email.

2. Service via publication: If you know where your spouse is, you can ask the court for permission to serve “by publication.” You’ll pay to post a notice in a local newspaper for a specific number of days, and the court then presumes that the spouse has been served.

3. Hiring a server: If the partner you are divorcing won’t cooperate and waive the right to service, you can probably hire someone in that country to serve the divorce papers personally. But try another option first – hiring a foreign server will not be inexpensive.

WHAT IF YOU FILE FOR DIVORCE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY?

If you have been living in a foreign country with your spouse, you will not be able to return to the United States and file right away for a divorce – because of each state’s residency requirement.

In such a circumstance, you may instead choose to file for your divorce in the nation where you are currently residing. That nation may have its own residency requirements for divorce, and it will certainly have its own divorce laws.

In a foreign country, be sure that you fully understand how the divorce laws work, and look for a local attorney who is trustworthy – someone whose credentials and background are both verifiable and impeccable.

Each of the fifty states will honor a divorce from a foreign country, provided that the basic legal formalities for a divorce proceeding have been satisfied.

However, it is important for divorcing spouses to understand this:

Enforcing a foreign court’s divorce orders, such as the orders for alimony or child support, can be difficult – and sometimes exceedingly difficult – if one spouse is living in a foreign country or was living in another country during the divorce proceeding.

WHAT IS MOST FREQUENTLY DISPUTED IN INTERNATIONAL DIVORCES?

Here are several of the particular types of disputes that frequently arise when a U.S. citizen divorces a marital partner who is the citizen of another nation:

1. Custody disputes: You must have a lawyer who can fight to keep your child or children close to you. If the spouse who is not a U.S. citizen takes children to another country, the U.S. citizen/parent may have genuine difficulty getting them back or even visiting them.

2. Disputes over marital property: When you and your spouse own properties in different nations, you need a lawyer who understands the laws in those nations. Assets held in or transferred to another country inevitably complicate the division of marital properties.

3. If the marriage lasted less than two years, the spouse who is not a U.S. citizen may lose legal residency status in the United States.

WHAT COMPLICATIONS CAN YOU EXPECT IN AN INTERNATIONAL DIVORCE?

In the 21st century, it is not at all uncommon for two people from different countries to meet in a third country, get married in a fourth, and eventually, have children and hold assets in several other countries.

So if your divorce is going to be an international divorce, you must have a knowledgeable divorce lawyer working on your behalf who is familiar with jurisdictional issues and international family law.

In any divorce, you must be advised by an attorney who understands how a divorce will impact your financial outlook and your tax situation in the foreseeable future.

In the most complicated cases, your attorney may seek the assistance of financial experts and authorities.

If you believe that your spouse is attempting to hide marital assets, you must be represented by a divorce lawyer who has experience uncovering hidden assets.

WHO CAN PROVIDE THE HELP A DIVORCING SPOUSE NEEDS?

Without skilled and experienced legal representation, your international divorce could get quite costly – and even lengthier and more legally complicated – very quickly.

In southern California, an Orange County divorce attorney can help you navigate the various legal complexities – as well as the varying state and foreign laws – that may become applicable in an international divorce.

Every divorce is difficult and emotionally draining, but the complications and stresses of an international divorce can be almost overwhelming.

If you choose divorce – or if your spouse is divorcing you – do not make the big mistake of failing to have the skilled legal help you need from the very beginning of the divorce process.

When you divorce, your future is your priority – and good legal assistance is your right.

Wail Sarieh
By Wail Sarieh