In many aspects, divorcing a foreign spouse is not much different from divorcing an American spouse. However, there are a few differences that may lead to complications if you aren't prepared. Use these three major tips to streamline the divorce process:
Submit Your Petition First
If you are sure you are headed for divorce, it's in your best interest to file first. Generally, if each of you files for divorce in your respective countries, the divorce usually proceeds in the jurisdiction that received the filing first. Choosing the jurisdiction has several advantages. For example, you get to choose which laws govern the division of your marital assets. It also saves you the hustle and expenses of having to shuttle to a foreign country for court appearances, which may be the case if your foreign partner submits a divorce petition in their home country.
Don't Choose a Lawyer Based On Country Affiliations
If you aren't a U.S. citizen, but you are divorcing in the country, be careful on whom you choose to handle your divorce. It is tempting to choose somebody who understands your language well, but this may be risky since they may not understand the laws well. For example, if you are a German, it may be tempting to use German lawyers practicing in the United States. You are free to use any lawyer you want, just make sure they have a good grasp of the local divorce laws and traditions. In many cases, this means you should use local divorce lawyers.
Serve Your Spouse Properly
Proper service of process or notice is necessary if you want your divorce to be recognized. It can be easy to disregard this; for example, in your rush to be the one to file first you may ignore the bureaucracy and logistics of serving your partner with the notice.
Unfortunately, U.S. courts will not recognize your divorce if your partner doesn't receive your divorce notification properly. Note that if your partner isn't in the U.S., then the manner of notification must be conversant with their country's laws. For example, some countries don't recognize divorce notifications sent by mail, so you shouldn't use that if your spouse's country is one of them.
The main idea is to respect the respective country's divorce laws, and you can only do this if you understand them. Therefore, even though you don't need a lawyer to divorce, it is advisable to have one if you are divorcing a foreign partner. You will avoid most of the complications by seeking legal counsel early in the process.