Immigration and Divorce
Although all couples experience stressors to their marriages, those living abroad as immigrants often find these difficulties are amplified when living a new culture, far from friends, family and their previous support systems.
According to a new study on immigrant marriages, the so-called “trailing” spouses of workers from other countries often feel isolated and without an identity in their new home abroad. When onerous travel and excessive work hours are added to this, a common result is divorce.
But getting a divorce as an expat can be tricky, especially if one of the partners has returned to the United States. International custody battles are common, and sometimes it is unclear which country has jurisdiction over divorce proceedings. There is also the tremendous expense of relocating family members and households.
International custody concerns
In terms of custody issues, most cases fall under the provisions of the Hague Convention of 1980, which requires that the children remain in the country where custody is under dispute. However, many Middle Eastern countries are not members of the convention and will automatically award the father custody. In some cases, one partner has returned home to the United States with the children, only to have the partner abroad invoke the Hague Convention. Others have had difficulty even leaving the country with their children.
In some countries joint bank accounts are prohibited so when couples separate, one partner (who is often female) can be cut off from access to the funds necessary for support. And countries like England may not find a prenuptial agreement enforceable, since their law finds them against public policy. In any event, you will want to obtain legal help to navigate what can be a complicated process.
How Can I Protect My Child Against My Ex Leaving the Country?
If your ex is a foreign national – who is either legally in this country or illegally in this country – who now has joint custody or visitation with your child, you may have serious concerns that he or she could flee the country with your child. Once that happens, recovering your child is a complex and expensive process. You get little help from the U.S. State Department, and the Hague Abduction Convention is only available to you if the host country is one of the 73 signatory nations. Eventually, you might get your child back, but the heart-wrenching fight can ruin you financially. This is definitely a situation where an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure, so here are preventative steps you can take:
First, have the court restrict international travel in your custody order — A court order empowers law enforcement to stop a child from leaving the country with a U.S. or foreign passport.
Enroll your child in the U.S. State Department’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) — Once you enroll your child in this program, a passport application your ex files will raise a red flag, and the State Department must verify that parental consent requirements have been met. That means that you and your ex must have appeared in person with the child to provide consent before a passport was issued. Make sure you watch for warning signs — If your ex quits a job or sells a residence, consult with your attorney about getting temporary restrictions placed on visitation or custody. Contact the embassy of your ex’s country of origin — Your child may have dual citizenship and may be eligible for a passport from your ex’s home country. Contact the local embassy to see if your ex has applied on behalf of your child. Be sure to lock up your child’s passport — The State Department will not rescind a U.S. passport that’s been issued, so if your child already has one, you’ve got to take possession of it and place it under lock and key. If your ex has the child’s passport issued by the U.S. or a foreign embassy, you can get a court order compelling your ex to surrender the passport to you. When you get it, put it in a bank safe deposit box that only you can access.
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When you need legal help for a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506