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International Divorce and Child Custody Issues: Jurisdiction and Venue

One of the beautiful things about Houston and Katy, Texas is our diversity of population. With the international employers in our area, our population that continues to diversify, bringing in and sending out expats to and from all corners of the globe. Relocation can be difficult and in some cases leads to the unique and somewhat confusing situations of international divorce and child custody issues. There a many pieces to these complex issues that must be addressed in order. Where do we file for divorce? What country's laws apply? Where do I get help?

International divorce most commonly takes on one of two forms: (1) divorce in a country where the parties reside, but that is not their usual country of origin; or (2) divorce in a country where one party resides that was the former resident country for both parties.

Jurisdiction and Venue

Most commonly the parties reside in the foreign country together, or one party is still in the home country/country of the former marital residence. The first step will be to determine jurisdiction and venue, and then how to serve the lawsuit. This means determine who has the authority to grant the divorce and where is the best place to do it and how do you notify the other party. The local rules of the state and country each party is located in will determine which country's state has jurisdiction over the parties.

For two foreign nationals living in Texas

For a Texas court to have jurisdiction over the parties, the parties must meet the residency requirements of living in Texas for six months prior to the filing of the divorce, and must have lived in the county in which the divorce is filed for at least ninety days prior to filing. Venue is proper if the property to be divided and the parties to the suit are located in or accessible to that county. The purpose is to ensure that there is not a more convenient forum for both parties and property to address the suit than the one in which it is filed.

If this situation applies to you, contact a local attorney in your county to begin discussing what the laws of your state and county are and how they apply to your case. If you intend to return or move to another country, be sure to discuss these issues with your attorney and possibly contact an attorney in the country you will be moving to. It will be important for your attorney in Texas to draft a decree of divorce that will be effective in your new country of residence. This can be done by collaborating with an attorney in the new or future jurisdiction. Although an added expense up front, this could save you a lot of money and difficulty in the future.

One party lives abroad

This can either be that one party lives in Texas and the former marital residence is in another country, or that the former marital residence is in Texas. Texas law provides for jurisdiction over a spouse not residing in that jurisdiction (non-resident spouse) if the parties' last martial residence was in Texas and the parties resided there within two years of filing for divorce. There are some exceptions in which Texas could still have jurisdiction outside of the two year requirement, and if neither party lives in Texas, but that will not be discussed here for brevity.

Service of Process

Once jurisdiction is determined, you will need to have the non-resident spouse served. Be sure to confirm that your request for process complies with the service requirements of the country in which the individual is being served if you wish to ensure that your Final Decree of Divorce can be enforced against your spouse in the future in that country. If the country is a signatory of the Hague Convention, the country's service of process requirements can be found here ( on the Hague Conference website.

If you are the one who has been served with divorce proceedings, contact an attorney immediately. You have a limited amount of time to respond. Further, an attorney can help you determine if the jurisdiction in which your spouse filed is the proper one, or if you should fight it. You must contest the jurisdiction before anything else in the case is filed. As soon as something is filed on your behalf, you lose the ability to fight jurisdiction and must continue the remainder of the case where your spouse chose to file.

If you can choose, pick the best fit

Consider the laws of the jurisdiction in which you presently reside, but also be sure to consider which venue is best and most convenient for you as well as what jurisdiction you plan to move to and how your Final Decree of Divorce will work in the new jurisdiction. This is particularly important if children and/or support are involved. No matter where you are located, discuss your situation with an experienced family law attorney and be sure that you know all the benefits and pitfalls associated with each potential jurisdiction and venue before you start.

Contact the Springer Law Firm

If you need assistance navigating these or other international issues, evaluating what property can be awarded in your divorce, or possession and access of a child, please contact the Springer Law Firm to arrange a consultation to have an attorney meet with you to evaluate your situation.

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The Springer Law Firm

21815 Oak Park Trails Drive
Katy, TX 77450

Phone: 281-616-7540
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