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Dual citizenship, foreign residence complicate divorce

Since the Texas border touches another country, it is likely that there are more than a few Texans married to citizens of a foreign land. In good times, it makes for an interesting multicultural family. In bad times, such as a divorce, it could lead to chaos.

The rules that govern marriage in the United States differ from those in other countries, as do the rules for divorce. Texans who have dual citizenship, live in another country or wed a person who holds citizenship other than in the U.S. need to decipher the various rules before proceeding with a divorce.

For instance, being an American citizen does not mean people should file for divorce in the United States, especially if the marital residence is outside the borders. It gets even harder if children are involved, as the two parents can struggle over which court should have jurisdiction in matters of child custody.

Children who hold citizenship of more than one country because of their parents' citizenship can complicate divorce matters. Sometimes, the parent who files the paperwork the fastest sees his or her court prevail as the one with jurisdiction.

The Hague Conference on Private International Law, to which 75 countries have signed on, has attempted to unify laws when divorcing in different nations. Still, it does not always help parents living abroad who might want to divorce and return with their kids to the United States; courts in the nations where children have lived can stop that.

Children represent one issue and property division another. Some people are forced to go abroad to try to claim property they say is rightfully theirs and pursue the outcome in a foreign court.

In short, there is no easy solution to cases of couples living abroad or holding dual citizenship. Before marrying, and especially before moving to a spouse's native land, it is wise to consult an expert in international law. Though we never plan to divorce, it is good to know what could lie ahead should a marriage end.

Source: Reuters, "Divorce in two countries is double the trouble," Geoff Williams, Oct. 24, 2012

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