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How to Get an International Divorce in Texas

Currently, it is completely conceivable that you and your spouse may not reside in the same household. We have seen so much movement of people in the past few years due to the pandemic that you may be working and living in one city while your spouse lives and works in another city. This may have been a plan for some time or make have come about due to a change in the economy or a movement for one of your jobs. In fact, in an international city like Houston, you may live in a completely different country than in the United States. The desire to get a divorce may be complicated because you're living in a completely different country.

It is never an easy process to go through a divorce. There are emotional, relational, and financial issues all tied up in the divorce. That's not even mentioning anything to do with the actual process and logistics involved in obtaining the divorce. There are steps you need to follow and different parts of the divorce that need to be attended to diligently to complete the process. A person cannot simply send some paperwork into the courthouse and wait a few days to get divorced. Rather, you and your spouse must participate in the process and work too and the marriage diligently to obtain the divorce. If you or your spouse choose not to participate in the divorce filed by the other spouse then that, also, can delay the divorce it increased the overall costs.

If you and your spouse live in different countries then you have an international divorce on your hands. Wanting to get a divorce is not incompatible with living in a different country from your spouse. However, it raises important issues that you need to deal with head-on. If you are the spouse who plans on filing for divorce these are questions you are better off answering yourself before the beginning of a case. The last thing you want to do is head into a complicated divorce involving international parties before you have the answers to these questions. Where can you turn for specific information about your life and circumstances? 

My recommendation would be to read today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. If you have questions about the material, you have read then certainly contact one of our licensed family law attorneys. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person at our two Houston area locations, over the phone, and via video. When it comes to questions about family law scenarios, we have answers that can help you a great deal. Contact us today to learn more and we hope you enjoy our blog post.

Are you a resident of Texas?

Just because you got married in Texas or lived here for a period does not necessarily mean that a Texas court can hear your divorce case and eventually grant your divorce. Rather, you need to be able to establish that a Texas court has jurisdiction over your case. Jurisdiction simply means that a court has the ability not only to hear arguments in potential hearings but also to issue rulings and orders associated with your case. It will be fruitless for you to proceed with a divorce in a state or county that does not have jurisdiction over your case. For that reason, you must figure out before you file your case whether Texas has jurisdiction and whether or not Texas is the appropriate venue for your divorce.

To prove that Texas has jurisdiction over your case either you or your spouse must be residents of Texas. Residency for divorce purposes means you must have resided in Texas for six months before when the divorce petition was filed and, in the county, where the petition is filed for a minimum of 90 days. For your circumstances that involve an international divorce if your divorce petition is filed in Texas the Texas court will have jurisdiction over your spouse that resides in another country. This is true so long as you and your spouse are the most recent residents as a married couple was in Texas and the petition was filed almost two years after the cohabitation in Texas ended.

One of the frequent questions that we are asked at the Law Office. of Bryan Fagan regarding international divorces is whether other countries honor divorce decrees from the United States. In many cases, a divorce that you get in the United States would be recognized in a different country. However, this has been taken on a case-by-case basis. A court from another country may decide not to honor a United States divorce decree if you or your spouse’s property or custodial rights to children were impacted a great deal by the divorce in a way that could not be done in that other country. So long as you provided notice to your spouse of a divorce from another country the same would be true in the inverse. Meaning that if you get divorced in Mexico it is likely that the United States would honor that divorce petition and decrease if there is proof of you haven't provided to your spouse notice of the divorce first.

How is marital property division handled in an international divorce?

When you or your spouse own property in a country other than the United States, it can become difficult to figure out how to divide that property or even consider that property in the context of your divorce. The first order of business would be to determine which country and its laws on property division and divorce would apply to your case. Some international agreements exist that attempt to determine how property will be classified and divided in a divorce. However, most countries in the world do not agree to utilize that agreement. This becomes incredibly important if a divorce is filed by your spouse in a different country. In that case, you should consider contacting an attorney with our office. We have worked with many clients on international divorce cases with great success.

On the other hand, if you have filed for divorce from your spouse in Texas it is a question as to whether the court will be able to divide any property in your case especially if it is in another country. As we talked about a moment ago, the first step in the process is determining whether Texas has jurisdiction over you, your spouse, and your property. If the property in question is the separate property of either you or your spouse, then under no circumstances can a Texas divorce Corp divide that property. So long as the property was acquired during your marriage, no matter where it is, it is likely to be classified as Community property. Thus, it will be divisible under a just and right division of property. 

However, if the marital property is located outside of Texas and outside the United States then your Texas divorce court first must figure out how much the property is worth. After that, if your Texas divorce court determines that the property located outside the United States needs to be divided up then there are multiple ways that it can do so. Just as we see courts order property sold in the profits divided up for domestic properties, the same may be true of international property. For example, you or your spouse may be ordered to put the property up for sale in the other country and then have the proceeds from the sale divided between you and your spouse. Additionally, the court may order you or your spouse to sign over your interest in the property to the other spouse. This is typically done in exchange for other property of equal value.

I'm sure you can see that this is it's probably going to be a more complicated step in the process than I am making it out to be here in a blog post. In Texas and the United States, it is easy enough to put a piece of real property up for sale and then ultimately find a willing buyer. This is done every day thousands of times both in our state and across the United States. What's more, our system of law protects buyers and sellers of property from wrongdoing, fraud, and other potential harms that can result when parties attempt to sell the property.

However, the same may not be true in the country where you and your spouse are attempting to sell the property. Different countries have different laws on the books when it comes to selling real property. In addition, you may find yourself in a scenario where the other country simply does not have the wherewithal or desire to protect buyers and sellers of property. You may even find yourself in a position where the country where this property is located may not even allow you to sell the property without government permission or some external force giving you the OK. For this reason, you should certainly reach out to an experienced family law attorney in the United States to learn your options and to determine what your rights may be if any period

The last thing you want to do is to jump into this type of scenario with no knowledge and no protection. While there is only so much that an attorney can do in terms of that protecting you and your rights to property in another country, it certainly provides you with a better footing than jumping in headfirst with no knowledge of the law in other countries. You may find that the attorney has contacts in other countries having can point you towards an attorney in the other country that you may be able to work alongside. Our office has worked with attorneys in different countries before with success. I can personally recall a case where some years ago we worked with attorneys in Columbia to assist a client with his divorce from his wife. All in all, your specific circumstances deserve attention and guidance from people who have gone through this process before. By contacting one of us you give yourself a great opportunity to learn about divorce and what year rights may be in a different country when it comes to property.

Filing for divorce in Texas and the other country

One option that maybe one that you would like to consider would be to file for divorce both in Texas and in the other country where you or your spouse are living. By filing for divorce in another country you may give yourself a better opportunity to have the property in question divided according to the laws of that country. It is difficult to imagine a divorce court in another country steadfastly applying the laws in Texas regarding marital property to your case. On the other hand, it is much more realistic to imagine a divorce court choosing to follow its laws when dividing up property in its own country. This may be worth pursuing space in your circumstances. However, you can only learn this by contacting an attorney and speaking to them about your specific case.

The benefit of filing for divorce in another country while also filing for divorce in Texas is straightforward. The Texas court would choose to follow through with the division of property that lies within the state of Texas. At the same time, you could work with the international court to divide the property in a country other than the United States. How the timelines work out is anyone's guess. It is my experience that courts in Texas typically move faster than courts in other countries, but your specific circumstances may differ in this regard. There are so many moving pieces to keep track of when it comes to international divorces that a specific timeline for your case may not be ascertained all that easily.

Another key part of this discussion is being able to appraise a property that is in another country. For instance, in the United States, it is somewhat easy to order an appraisal of a piece of land or a home. However, when it comes to doing this in another country there may be specific procedures that you have to follow that only a local attorney would know. For this reason, may make sense for you to hire a local attorney to be your boots-on-the-ground representative. The last thing you want is to trust your case 2 court officials or someone like this without having someone on the ground to discuss the case with a judge and advocate for your rights. Before you go and hire a lawyer in another country, you may want to contact the consulate of that country in the United States or The United States embassy in that country.

Simply put, a Texas family court does not have the authority to divide property located in another country. So, you cannot expect to take a Texas divorce court’s ruling and tried to register it in a different country. However, if the court acquires jurisdiction over your spouse, then it can order that person to take the steps necessary to have the property sold. Therefore, it is important to proceed with a divorce in Texas even if your spouse in the property in question is located in our state or even in the country. 

Another option for a court to pursue would be two divided properties indirectly. For example, if you have good evidence that shows your spouse owns $200,000 worth of property in Brazil even if the court in Texas cannot divide that property or order it to be sold it can credit you with that dollar figure of property from other assets. Meaning that it can simply state in the divorce decree that your spouse can keep the property in Brazil but that you get $250,000 of other property that the court does have jurisdiction over. This may not be the ideal circumstance but maybe for the best given the complexities of an international divorce case.

Do not assume that just because there is property owned between you and your divorce that is in another country that a Texas court can do nothing to address that subject. However, you can only learn your options and what a family court might do if you can speak with an experienced family law attorney first period at least learn your options and receive some perspective and information based on your specific circumstances and life situation.

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offered free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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