Are foreign divorces recognized in the U.S.?

First, what is a foreign divorce? This is any Divorce that occurred abroad (internationally) outside of the United States.

Many countries allow parties to be divorced even if you do not reside there or are not even a national to that country. In some cases, you do not even need to be present at all! Sounds enticing right? Some of these include (with a few requirements):

  • Haiti
  • Dominican Republic
  • Guam
  • Alaska

Some people opt this route because its usually a faster process than in the U.S. For example, a divorce in the Dominican Republic can take anywhere between 15-20 days as oppose to waiting several months in the U.S, especially in New York City.

In general, the United States will recognize a foreign divorce if all the below requirements were met:

  1. Both parties had notice of the proceeding
  2. Were given an opportunity to speak or be heard during the proceeding, and in some cases
  3. One of the parties was physically present when the divorce took place.

Remember, if you choose to get divorced abroad, you must still follow the rules of the state where you live or where your spouse lives, including the laws of the country you choose in how to get your spouse served with the divorce papers.

On the contrary, there is no specific treaty in force that requires the U.S to recognize foreign divorces. Divorces are a matter of state and not the federal government. Because of this, states will usually recognize a foreign divorce on the basis of comity (an association of nations for their mutual benefit). Furthermore, all Courts in every state have sole discretion in whether or not they want to recognize a foreign divorce. Many Courts have questioned such divorces where even though the parties followed the requirements above, neither party resided there and as such have deemed the divorce invalid.

It is important to evaluate your situation, and determine all the pros and cons on getting a foreign divorce.

For more information, and who to contact for questions, visit the US Department of States-Bureau of Consular Affairs website here: