Dual Citizenship in Divorce – When Tennessee Is in the Wrong Country
Domestic divorces can be complicated. Tennessee laws cover child custody, visitation, child support, spousal alimony, division of property, and related matters. For Tennessee couples with dual citizenship issues, just trying to determine how a country’s divorce laws apply can up the ante, significantly. As Chef Emeril Lagasse might say, “BAM!” (Emeril was born in Massachusetts to a Canadian father and Portuguese mother.)
While most people appreciate global economic interests, they may not know how prevalent dual citizenship is among U.S. households. There are universities without borders, lawyers without borders, doctors without borders, sanctuary cities, and even sanctuary states.
These cross-border relationships often result in international marriages, something that can create profound jurisdictional issues for divorcing couples who find themselves straddling the laws of two countries. Furthermore, many U.S. service members stationed overseas marry locally and raise children on foreign soil. A subsequent foreign divorce action can be a real eye-opener when it comes to property ownership and child custody issues.
Marriage Is No Illusion
As an example of how complicated these international marriages can be, take a look at Cesar Millan, National Geographic’s celebrated Dog Whisperer.
César Millán Favela is a Sinaloa-born Mexican national who entered the U.S. illegally in 1990 at age 21. He married Ilusión, a Mexican-American woman, in 1994 and became a permanent U.S. resident in 2000. The couple has two sons (the youngest is still a minor). In March 2009, Cesar took the oath of U.S. citizenship making him a Mexican national and a U.S. citizen.
The following year, Ilusión filed for divorce in Los Angeles citing irreconcilable differences. Their California divorce was finalized in December 2012. Without minimizing the seriousness of this couple’s differences, the fact that Cesar was a U.S. citizen before the divorce was filed in L.A. probably eased tensions considerably. According to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, even though a dual-national owes allegiance to both countries, U.S. and foreign, the “country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim.”
Ordinarily, a divorce is filed in the country where the spouses reside. The U.S. citizen residing in Vancouver with his or her Canadian spouse, for example, would likely put divorce jurisdiction in the hands of the Canadian court. However, once a foreign divorce is issued there may be lingering problems.
Pre-Divorce Planning for Dual Citizenship Issues
As Jeff Landers says in his article on Small World, Big Problem: Divorces Involving Dual Citizenship, be “well-prepared, well-informed and well-advised about the divorce process.” A good place to begin is to research and compare the divorce laws between the countries involved to determine the more favorable forum:
● What are the grounds for divorce in both countries?
● Do both spouses have the same legal rights? Do women have equal rights?
● What is considered marital property? How is property divided?
● Who will pay child support and how will the amount be determined?
● How will child custody be decided? Is the woman disfavored as the primary custodian or presumed to be the better caregiver?
● How will visitation be accomplished?
● Is some form of spousal support, or alimony, available? How will an award be enforced?
Get started with pre-divorce planning under Tennessee law. Take a look at
Recognition of Foreign Divorce
An important question is “will the foreign divorce be recognized in the non-issuing country?” Because there is no treaty between the U.S. and other countries guaranteeing recognition of foreign divorce, there is always the potential for future problems. Conflicts of divorce laws between countries are common, making competent legal advice from an attorney who practices international law invaluable. Even better, find a lawyer with international child custody experience.
Memphis TN Child Custody Lawyer
The Miles Mason Family Law Group handles Tennessee divorce, child support, alimony, child custody, and parent relocation. Check out The Tennessee Divorce Client’s Handbook: What Every Divorcing Spouse Needs to Know, available on Amazon and Kindle. To schedule your confidential consultation, call us today at (901) 683-1850.