Humans are as mobile now as we have ever been. Transportation, technology and the desire to see the world and understand one another has led to a rise in immigrants coming to the United States. Many of the people arriving in our country are already legally married in their counties of origin. Many of those folks have marriage covenants or contracts that they have promised to uphold no matter where it is that he or she is living.
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan represent client from different backgrounds and different walks of life and would like to share some information with you that pertains to foreign marriage contracts and whether they can be enforced within the United States and more specifically the State of Texas.
As it is in the United States, most pre-marriage contracts have to do with property and how it will be allocated in the event the marriage ends due to divorce or the death of a spouse. The question is whether or not a foreign contract such as this will be enforceable in the United States. Whether or not the contract is enforceable upon filing for divorce in this country is what I will seek to explain today.
What types of pre-marital agreements exist?
There are essentially two types of pre-marital agreements that can be entered into by spouses: Prenuptial Agreements and Religious Agreements. We can go through each before discussing whether or not they can actually be enforceable in a U.S. court.
These are marriage contracts entered into that determine how property is distributed upon the divorce of the parties or the death of one party. If you desire eventually to come into the U.S. and have this contract upheld it is best to have had the document drafted by an attorney to give the contract further legitimacy.
These types of agreements are common in the United States as well and essentially act as a Final Decree of Divorce solely on the property issues in a marriage.
In fact, your Final Decree will most likely reference your Prenuptial Agreement by name and have that document attached as an exhibit for a Court to review prior to finalizing your divorce
The covenants made in Religious Agreements tend to be more all-encompassing than what you see in Prenuptial Agreements. Rather than dealing solely in matters of property distribution, religious agreements can delve into subjects like how a dowry is to be spent or allocated if the marriage ends in divorce and which spouse will end up with the children if the marriage ends for any reason.
Appellate Courts in the U.S. have ruled both in favor and against the enforceability of these type of pre-marital agreements so I’m not able to say with certainty how yours would fare if put through the scrutiny of a legal review by a judge in the U.S.
How to increase the odds of your foreign marital contract being enforceable in Texas
For starters, a provision in the contract that allows the law of this country to govern the agreement is a good way to start. That way, a court here has the option clear as day to apply the law of whatever State you reside in. This isn’t a guarantee of its enforceability but it is a good place to start.
In general, if both sides are represented by counsel in their home country and have disclosed and made available all of their assets to the terms of the contract this too will give a judge reason to consider the document as one that can and should be enforceable in the U.S. A statement contained within the contract that both parties have entered into it with full understanding of its meaning and under no duress or fraud is another straightforward way that you may be able to increase the chances of the contract being enforced in Texas or the U.S. more broadly.
What you can do to get divorced in Texas if you were married in a foreign country
First of all, you must meet the same residency requirements that all persons seeking a divorce in Texas must: you must have lived in Texas for the prior six months before filing the divorce and in the county in which you plan to actually file in for ninety days. If you have met these requirements you can file for divorce in this State.
Of course, the easy part is actually dissolving the marriage itself in Texas. Whether or not anything contained in a Final Decree of Divorce is enforceable when it comes to property that you or your spouse own in your country of origin is an entirely different subject.
Our office represented a gentleman who was from Texas originally, got married to a Colombian woman here and then moved to Colombia sometime after the wedding. Subsequently our client moved back to the United States on his own and filed for divorce here while his wife filed for divorce in Colombia.
We were able to have her served with divorce papers by utilizing a governmental body in Colombia that got the paperwork to the wife. Most countries have signed on to a United Nations treaty that streamlines providing notice to a spouse in a foreign country when a divorce has been filed against them in the United States.
For the divorce in Colombia, we suggested that our client find a local attorney in Colombia so that he could be represented by someone with “boots on the ground”. As all of the property the parties owned was in Colombia his Colombian attorney did most of the heavy lifting. His having worked with our office allowed him to get legally divorced in Texas so that he could transact business and enter the dating pool with a clean conscience knowing he was no longer legally married.
Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan with questions on Foreign Marriage Contracts
If you were married in another country and wish to divorce your spouse in Texas, the Houston divorce attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can offer you advice based on our years of experience representing clients in similar situations. Consultations on family law matters are free of charge and the information you can gain greatly benefit you and your family.
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The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with ar Spring, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.
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