Understanding the International Divorce Process; Divorcing a Spouse Who Lives In Another Country.

Divorce is complicated enough when you and your spouse live In the United States. What happens when your spouse lives abroad in another country? The short answer is that serving divorce papers internationally can become quite complex, but you and your spouse can make the process simpler. Depending on the country where he or she lives and your spouse’s willingness to cooperate, you will have quite a few options for serving your papers. The international divorce process can be complicated, though the experts at Stearns Law can help guide you through.

Going for an uncontested divorce is the simplest solution to getting a divorce while one spouse lives internationally. Here are a few options that are available to you in this situation.

  1. Attempt to have your spouse cooperate, pursue an uncontested divorce, and waive service.
    Waiving service is the easiest way to accomplish a divorce when your spouse lives abroad. Basically, you send over an affidavit along with any related documentation pertaining to your divorce (such as the Complaint for Divorce and Settlement Agreement). Your spouse then signs off on the waiver and gets it notarized at the U.S. embassy or a U.S. consulate. They may need to make an appointment at certain locations in order to do so.
  2. Attempt formal service pursuant to the Hague Convention on Service.
    The Hague Convention on Service is the first step to look at how to serve a spouse that will not agree to waive service. Signatory countries, which are countries that have agreed to follow the rules set out in the Hague Convention on Service, will have very specific steps on how to serve your spouse. Part Two of this blog series will go over the complex methods outlined in the Hague Convention on Service.
  3. Send your divorce papers by international registered mail.
    Less reliable than the previous two methods, if your spouse is a resident of a country that is not a signatory country to the Hague Convention on Service, then you may be able to have the Clerk of Courts send the divorce complaint directly to the last known address by international registered mail. Part Three of this blog series will go over International Registered Mail as an option for service.
  4. Service by Publication
    As a last resort if you can’t locate your spouse in their country of residence, you may be able to publish a notice of your divorce in an appropriate legal organ (such as a newspaper) for the county in which you are filing the divorce. Like trying to locate your spouse in the United States, if you show to a judge that you have made best efforts at locating your spouse internationally, you can receive a divorce by publication. This method has it’s shortcomings as you may have difficulty being granted child or spousal support, and Georgia will not be able to address assets located outside of Georgia.

Serving divorce papers internationally is a complex situation and the best hope is to get an uncontested divorce with no assets being split. Look for the next parts of the Blog Series where we will discuss issues such as dealing with the Hague Service Convention, being awarded child support, spousal support, or assets, and more.

International family law can often be difficult at first glance, though we are prepared and able to help you through the process. Getting a great divorce attorney will make the process of serving divorce papers internationally less difficult and less stressful; call us for a consultation at one of our four locations.