Can You Divorce in Arizona If You Were Married Overseas?

Some of my divorce mediation clients were married in other countries and wonder about how that would impact their Arizona divorce.  If you were married overseas but now need a divorce, you may wonder “Can we divorce in Arizona If we married in another country?”  The short answer is yes; however, there are many conditions and circumstances that can change the situation. If you are both American citizens who married overseas but filed in the U.S that is a very different circumstance from one where one partner is American but the other partner is a citizen of another country.

Does the United States Recognize Foreign Marriages?

Yes, of course the United States recognizes almost all foreign marriages with very few exceptions. It must have been issued by the appropriate authorities and won’t be accepted for immigration purposes in any of the following situations listed below (this is not a complete list and situations change all the time so check with a lawyer or specialist for the most up to date and complete rules).

Commonly disallowed circumstances:

  • Marriage is not legal in country where marriage took place
  • Polygamous marriages
  • Underage marriages
  • Proxy marriages (where one partner isn’t present)
  • Marriage solely for the purpose of immigration

What is an International Divorce?

An international divorce is typically one where one spouse lives in the U.S and the other spouse lives in a foreign country. Deciding where to file for divorce would necessarily be based on a consideration of all the complex variables involved. Simple cases where the assets are all based in the State where the divorce is sought, and where there are no children, or where there would be no custody dispute, could be a simple matter of filing in the State where the U.S spouse resides. It does get more complex when there is foreign property or children and custody to consider.  So, be sure to consult a professional with expertise in that area.

Can You Divorce in Arizona if You Got Married in Another Country?

Yes, it is legal to get a divorce in Arizona if you are a resident of the State. Your decision will rest on whether you need any actions from the other party, like child support, or division of property, in which case you will want to either file in whatever location has jurisdiction over the other spouse, or take advantage of the Hague Convention on Private International Law provisions. Approximately 75 countries participate in the Hague Conference on Private International Law where they work together to make these types of international concerns more manageable. The Hague Conference “… assures divorced and separated spouses that their new status will receive the same recognition abroad as in the country where the divorce or separation is obtained.”

How Do I File for Divorce if I Get Married Overseas?

Once you’ve considered all the relevant factors, you need to make a decision about where to file for divorce. In most cases it would be simplest to file in your State, where you reside, but as we noted above, if you need actions from your spouse to be compelled by the state, it may make sense to divorce where that partner resides.

Do Overseas Assets Count in Divorce?

Basically, all assets “count” in a divorce because a proper division of assets has to take place, but not all assets will get divided. It depends on the pre-marriage situation, length of marriage, and shared responsibilities and how the divorcing couple decides they wish to divide or share assets.

So, if you file for divorce in Arizona, the Arizona court will want to divide “community property” even if that property is located in another country.  So, under Arizona divorce law, you could be entitled to a percentage of the equity in the property, but Arizona does not have jurisdiction to sell the property, transfer title of the property or do anything other than try to determine the community property value and apportion and credit one spouse that value somewhere else, such as the Arizona residence or U.S. retirement accounts

This can all feel complicated and overwhelming, but it is important to know that help is out there. We specialize in making an expensive and difficult process as simple and conflict-free as possible. If we can help in any way, please reach out to us and we can assist you with a mediated divorce. A good way to get started is to download our Divorce Preparation Checklist and feel free to contact us online or call us at 602-714-7447.