How to File for Divorce If You Got Married Overseas

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

How to File for Divorce If You Got Married Overseas

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

A destination wedding, military assignment, or impromptu elopement are just a few of the reasons U.S. citizens get married abroad. If you are one of the many U.S. citizens who got married abroad but has returned to the United States and wants to file for divorce, you can follow these steps to get started.

A suited man sitting across from a couple showing them documents

1. Determine Proper Location to Seek Divorce

The county where you and your spouse currently reside will be the jurisdiction where your divorce proceedings take place. To get divorced in any particular state, at least one spouse must reside there for a certain amount of time. The length of time required varies by state but is usually at least a few months.

If your spouse resides in a different location from you, there are most likely two different locations where divorce proceedings can legally be filed. Typically, where proceedings are filed first is where they will take place.

2. Prepare and Serve Divorce Papers

To start divorce proceedings, file a petition for divorce, or similar document, and other papers with the court. The form of the petition and other paperwork required depends on where you are filing for divorce. You can have an attorney prepare the paperwork for you or obtain the divorce forms for your state from an online legal service provider.

Once prepared, provide your spouse with formal legal notice of the proceedings and copies of the divorce papers. This is called service of process. There are rules that govern how the papers must be served. For example, the person who serves the papers must be disinterested so you cannot have a family member serve your spouse. If your spouse is still overseas, the service rules are more complicated and obtaining an attorney to assist you in properly serving them is recommended.

No matter where they are living, if your spouse agrees to start the divorce proceedings, you can have them sign a form waiving formal service. This will save time and money.

3. Complete Divorce Proceedings

Once the divorce papers are filed and served, the divorce case has begun. The divorce proceedings will address three main issues: the division of assets and liabilities, spousal support, and child support and custody. The process typically involves the exchange of paperwork about each spouse's joint and separate assets and liabilities, negotiations, court hearings, and a possible trial.

How much court time it takes to finalize a divorce depends on how many issues you and your spouse disagree on and the complexity of your lives. Children, out-of-state assets, and businesses owned by you or your spouse are a few common situations that could make a divorce more complicated. Simple uncontested cases may resolve in a few months without either spouse ever having to set foot in a court room. Contested cases, in contrast, can require multiple court hearings and take over a year to resolve.

No matter where you were married, getting divorced is difficult. Ask for the help and support you need, whether from friends and family or trained professionals like attorneys and psychiatrists.

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.