International divorce: What happens when immigrants who were married in another country get divorced here in Arizona?
Unfortunately, divorce affects us all, including immigrants. Often times immigrants have amassed significant amounts of wealth in this country by their hard work and diligent savings. When they faced divorce, the issues are often complicated by financial and cultural implications.
Regardless of what country you get married, the United States can grant you a divorce. In Arizona, the character of the property will be determined as if the property was acquired in Arizona. That means if you purchased a house together while you were married in Indonesia and the house is titled in only one name it will still be considered community property, even if Indonesian law does not provide for community property.
One of my largest divorce cases involved an Indian couple that owned many businesses as community property. They owned property all over the world and managed business throughout the nation. Their marital community was worth more than $20 million.
Anytime you have a divorce with businesses and substantial assets the issues will be complex. In the case of immigrants we also have the issues relating to finding evidence and documentation for overseas properties. It isn’t as easy for us to gain jurisdiction or information over bank accounts that are overseas. It isn’t as easy to track down real estate documentation for international properties like buildings, homes or businesses. The laws of the different jurisdictions must be factored in. For instance, in the case mentioned above there was an issue regarding the notarization of the document. The laws in Indiana regarding notarization became an issue in the case.
Other cultural implications also also at play. For instance, a wife may not trust the US legal system or her attorney to protect her interests. If in her country she would be entitled to nothing after divorce, she will likely be tempted to hoard assets and not disclose what she has. On the converse, a husband who might be entitled to everything after divorce in his home country may not like the fact that he has to give half of all community property to his wife in this country.
In another case involving African immigrants, the parties’ tribal background and customs affected their relation to each other, their children and the legal system. As an attorney, I must tread lightly with these issues and seek to understand the background of the clients in order to help them reach the best solution.
Overseas travel issues come up often when dealing with international divorce issues. Many times, a judge will issue a standard order that parent may not travel outside of the country with the child during or after a divorce. For a parent who regularly travels overseas to visit family this provision may not be acceptable. Instead, we must work to make sure that each child has access to their extended family overseas.
Issues regarding international divorce are some of the most complicated and most fun to work on. In the event that you have specific questions, please give the office a call so that we may discuss your individual situation. 480-649-2905.