How to Divorce a Person Out of the Country

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

How to Divorce a Person Out of the Country

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

When your spouse lives out of the country, you can still file for divorce. It's just a little trickier. Your state's laws govern how to get divorced. When you file for divorce, you need to notify your spouse in writing and obtain his or her signature acknowledging the receipt of the documents. This is called service of process. Serving your spouse when they live in a foreign country can add some complexity to your case, but you can follow these steps to proceed with your divorce.

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1. Understand your state's laws.

Each state has its own divorce laws. For example, there are different rules regarding residency and service requirements. Make sure you understand where you can file for divorce and how to serve the required paperwork on your spouse.

If you need help understanding these rules, you can contact your local family court to gather more information. Additionally, you can hire an experienced family lawyer to help you with the process.

2. Complete and file your divorce petition.

Once you understand your state's rules, complete your divorce petition and file it with your local county court. You can either check your family court's website or call to ask about forms used for filing your divorce. You'll need to pay a fee when you submit your petition.

Be sure to specify a proposed division of your property, such as your house, cars, and bank accounts. If you have children, you must also suggest custody, visitation, and child support. Your court may have separate forms for any proposed settlements.

If both you and your spouse agree to the divorce, the settlement of your property, and the custody and visitation of any children, then this is an uncontested divorce. When both spouses agree, your divorce becomes simpler.

If you and your spouse don't agree on these terms, then you have a contested divorce. This can lengthen the process and cost of your case.

3. Serve your spouse.

Next, you need to serve your spouse, even if he or she lives in a foreign country. Call the embassy in the country where your spouse lives to check on any additional rules for serving court documents in that country. For example, the embassy can let you know how to hire a process server in a foreign country.

If you're allowed to serve this paperwork by mail, then send the required paperwork through international mail, certified return-receipt. This way, you have proof of delivery for the court.

You may also be able to serve your spouse through publication, such as by publishing a notice in the local newspaper. If you can notify your spouse through publication, contact the local newspaper in your spouse's town.

To ease the process, your spouse can waive service, meaning you don't have to deliver the necessary paperwork. Your spouse can sign a waiver of service form, provided by your local court or drafted by a family law attorney. Such a waiver alleviates the difficulty of this requirement.

4. Continue with your divorce.

Once your spouse is served or opts to waive service, you can continue with your divorce. If your divorce is contested, your spouse has the same opportunity as you to address or challenge any issues that arise. If your spouse doesn't respond to any court documents, then you may proceed with the divorce after a specific period. Your state's laws can guide you through these waiting periods.

Getting a divorce is never easy. When you have a spouse that lives in another country, it can make your case more complicated, but not impossible. Thorough research and sound legal advice can expedite the process.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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