Divorces and Other Countries

Divorce can be difficult enough.  However, when you are dealing with laws of another country, it can become more complicated.  You will have to pay attention to additional details, rules, and laws when your divorce involves laws from another country.

Let’s say you live in Illinois and you want to get divorced.  You have been legally separated for 10 years and at the time that you received a court order for the separation, the Court started to divide your marital property.  To handle bring the divorce case, you would file for divorce and request that the terms of the separation apply.

However, let’s say instead that you were married in Illinois but for the past 10 years you lived in France.  You were legally separated from your spouse in France, but still technically married.  You have moved back to Illinois and now want to get divorced.

What happens when part of your legal proceedings took place in another country?  How is your case handled then?  Here are some tips to keep in mind when you have a family law case (i.e. divorce, separation, child support, parenting, or maintenance) that is filled in a state court but was previously handled in another country.

First, in cases that have been handled in other countries, you want to strongly consider hiring an attorney.  An attorney will have the resources and the knowledge to determine which laws from other countries would apply to your case.  Tell the attorney when you first consult with him or her that your case was handled in another country.  The attorney may not be comfortable handling such a case, and you will want to know at the outset if the attorney feels that he or she can handle such a case.

Second, ask the attorneys you consult if they have experience in handling cases that may involve laws and rulings from another country.  You want to feel comfortable with your attorney’s experience level and be confident that your attorney can adequately represent you in such a case.

Third, tell your lawyer if there were rulings or orders entered in the foreign country on your case, even if the previous results were not in your favor.  Your lawyer needs to know the types of rulings that were made so that he can properly apply or dispute the foreign rulings made.  Do not hide any non-favorable rulings in hopes that the rulings will not be brought to the Court’s attention in the United States.  This will not help your case when the non-favorable rulings are eventually shown to the Court.  Your attorney will need to know the types of rulings that were entered in the foreign country so that he or she can determine if your case should be handled locally or in the foreign country where the rulings were made.

Fourth, get copies of all of the orders and transcripts of proceedings entered in the foreign country and bring them to your attorney early in the process.  This will allow your attorney to consider these orders at the outset, develop a plan of attack, and determine if there were improper rulings made in the foreign orders.  Your attorney can then give you a advice on the strength of your case, the impact that these foreign orders may have on your case, and your options for continuing with your case.

Obtaining copies of the foreign legal documents is important as you may want to bring these foreign orders before your Judge in the Illinois Court so that, in the above example,  your Judge divides your marital property consistent with the rulings of the French Court .  In order to properly bring these French orders before the Illinois Court, a copy of these orders must be obtained.  The orders may need to be translated, and the orders may need to be verified  through the proper embassy.  For this to be done correctly, your attorney will need copies of the documents or, at least, know of their existence so that he can properly obtain copies of the documents.  A divorce litigant cannot walk into court with a foreign order and expect that the order will automatically be considered by the court.

Finally, avoid noncompliance with any orders from the foreign court in your divorce matter.  Some people believe that once they are no longer in the country where the order was entered, the person no longer needs to comply with the foreign country order.  This issue arises especially when the person believes that the foreign ruling was improper or violated the laws of the United States.  However, if you violate a foreign court order, there is likely to be repercussions in your locally filed case.  Before you consider noncompliance, consult your attorney to determine if you need to follow the foreign order, the repercussions if you do not, and the options for disputing the order in the local court.

These are some tips to consider when dealing with a divorce or other family law issues that were handled at least partially in a foreign country.  If you should have any questions on this or other Family Law issues, please feel free to contact me at clunardini@spydavlaw.com or at 630.434.0551.

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