US citizens going through a divorce know the process is complex. It becomes even more complicated when one party is a dual citizen. Globalization has resulted in more international marriages and more dual citizenship divorces.
Dual citizenship issues
An American who is a dual citizen married to a citizen of another country faces additional problems when divorcing. These can include financial difficulties, jurisdiction concerns and cultural differences.
One key issue is child custody. Previously, mothers were typically granted custody over fathers, and, as a result, it was common and relatively easy for mothers to take children with them to another country. Today, however, men, at least in the U.S., are being awarded custody almost as frequently as women, and, as a result, litigation and conflict over child custody issues have increased.
Property issues are also more prevalent in dual citizenship divorces. If one spouse owns property in another country and refuses to give it up, there is nothing the other spouse can do short of traveling abroad and attempting to work it out.
Problems with immigration or citizenship may also arise. Additionally, jurisdiction is also a common problem in a dual citizenship divorce. Often the laws of at least two countries are involved, and more if the couple lived in other countries as well.
Examples of dual citizenship divorces
A Virginia man going through a dual citizenship divorce is struggling for custody of his two children who are living with their mother in the Dominican Republic. He says he is fighting a "corrupt system in a foreign court." He has already spent around $50,000 litigating the case, and he expects to spend more.
However, a British woman living in Massachusetts claims her dual citizenship divorce was efficient because she and her former spouse had no children and owned no joint property. The woman married and lived with her husband in London for two years before relocating to the United States.
Tips for couples facing a dual citizenship divorce
Do not assume because one spouse is an American that the divorce may be filed in the United States. Jurisdiction is not determined by where the parties are born, but by where they are currently living.
Dual citizenship divorces are usually easiest in the United States and Europe. They are more difficult in areas such as the Middle East or North Africa where men's rights are favored over women's.
In terms of child custody issues, a spouse whose children are moved to another country without permission should ask the U.S. state department or the local government to intervene. Contacting the American Embassy in the foreign country is also recommended. However, keep in mind that if the foreign country claims the former spouse has custody, your options may be limited.
An individual facing a divorce, whether it involves the intricacies of dual citizenship or not, can benefit from an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can provide guidance about the process and advocate on your behalf.