Today’s society is becoming more and more mobile. It is not uncommon for people to move across the country or even across the world from the place where they were born. When a relationship falls apart and divorce is imminent, it is not unusual for one person to move back home, and sometimes that means moving to a different country. International divorce presents some special issues and considerations a divorce litigant should be aware of.
All lawsuits, including divorce, require proper service on the defendant. This means that the divorce complaint has to be sent to the defendant in a special way to make sure that he or she receives the complaint and has notice of the pending lawsuit. In an international divorce, the method of service will depend heavily on the other country. If the other country will accept mail service for international registered mail, you may be able to send the divorce papers that way. In that situation, it may also be necessary to serve two sets of papers, one in English and one in the language of the country where your spouse is located. If the other country is a signature to the Hague Convention treaty, you may also be able to serve your spouse using a process called “letters rogatory.” In that situation, the court here in New Jersey will be making a formal request of the local court overseas to request and accomplish service. Finally, you may also be able to send the papers through a central authority. This will involve filling out forms with the U.S. Marshals, and the papers will be delivered to a central authority in the other country, who will then serve the papers.
After you have proof of service, the divorce will proceed much like any other divorce. If your spouse does not respond to the papers after they are served, you will be able to obtain a divorce by default. The court will also be able to make a division of property and debts. Child custody will be a more complicated issue. If the children now live with your spouse overseas and a certain length of time has passed, it may no longer be appropriate or possible for a New Jersey court to make a child custody determination, as the place where the children have lived for the past approximately six months is often the place where custody decisions will be made.
If you have an international divorce, you need an experienced attorney to help you with the process. We have helped many clients handle these types of situations. Call us today at (732) 529-6937 to talk about the special issues in international divorce and how we can help you.