Quickie Divorce: Where is the Best Country to Get Divorced?
Have you ever gone to a destination wedding? Instead of marrying in their hometown, the bride and groom pick a glamorous location.
Friends and family members fly in for several days of celebrations. It’s a mini-vacation for everyone and often the newlyweds spend their honeymoon in the same locale.
But what about a destination divorce? What if you regret last night’s impulsive nuptials in Las Vegas? What if your marriage goes south and you want to end it quickly? Can you make an unpleasant process easier or cheaper by divorcing overseas?
Where Is the Best Country to File for Divorce?
Like most other legal questions, the correct answer is . . . it depends.
Each state in the U.S. has its own laws about marriage and divorce. Therefore, what might work in New York may not be acceptable in New Mexico. The best country to file for divorce will obviously vary on the situation.
So where in the world can you get an international divorce? Is there such a thing as the best country to get divorced?
The Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is one country that attracts people who want to untie their knot quickly via a “special divorce.” However, don’t think you can fly nonstop from Miami to the Caribbean, sign some papers, and finish.
The “quickie” procedure only applies to a divorce by mutual consent. The couple has to formally agree in writing to get a Dominican Republican divorce. Then, they have to sign a formal separation agreement, and follow all other procedural requirements. One spouse has to physically appear at the hearing in the capital city of Santo Domingo. The other can also attend or have representation in the form of an attorney.
Even if you find the best country to get a divorce in, there are still procedures to follow.
While there is no long-term residency requirement and you can often get the deal done in one business day, you have to allow several weeks for all the paperwork to finalize. However, there’s a major risk: not all states recognize a Dominican Republic divorce.
What an expensive exercise in futility it would be if you spent the time and money to take a vacation in Punta Cana, only to return and find out that your divorce was invalid in your home state! You’ve got a great tan, but you’re still legally stuck with your spouse. Talk about the opposite of what you want.
The cost of getting a Dominican Republic divorce is at least $1,550 to $1,650. This includes professional fees, drafting of the settlement agreement, provision of interpretation by the official translator before the judge, official fees and taxes payable to the court, and translation of the Divorce Decree into Spanish.
Airfare, hotel, passport, and other travel expenses are not included. Nor are the costs of sending documents to your attorney in the Dominican Republic in advance.
Most importantly, before flying to the island, couples considering a Dominican Republic divorce should consult with an attorney in their home state to determine if the divorce will be legal and to prepare or review the settlement agreement. Resources like LegalZoom can help connect you with the best legal advice.
The U.S. Department of State’s website currently states that if neither spouse is “domiciled” (i.e. legally resides) in the foreign country, many states will rule that your divorce is invalid even if both of you signed the documentation and participated in the foreign divorce proceedings.
Family law attorney Randall M. Kessler of Kessler & Solomiany in Atlanta and author of the book Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids, and Your Future, cautioned against the whole idea of a foreign divorce. He said,
“Generally, when two people want to divorce, and they want to do it cooperatively, they should tell that to the best lawyer in their area and ask what is the best way to accomplish their goals. Filing for divorce in another country involves the cost of travel and the unknown of dealing with lawyers, laws and judges from a different country and culture,” says Kessler.
“I do not think I have ever recommended it. I would almost always feel more confident in the enforceability and the finality of a divorce decree entered in the home state of the parties, than a country chosen for divorce because people had heard from friends, or read somewhere that it might be better,” he adds.
Going to Guam
One possible location for a speedy divorce outside the U.S. is the territory of Guam. Technically, you’re still in the United States. But you can unravel your matrimony while vacationing on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Under current Guam law, both spouses need to consent and at least one needs to reside in Guam for a minimum of seven days before filing the divorce papers.
There’s a six-month waiting period for the final judgment, but the court might agree to a shorter period.
Because Guam is a U.S. territory, an official Guam divorce will be legal and recognized by all 50 states. However, Guam is approximately 6,000 miles from Los Angeles. So while you might be able to get a divorce more quickly than in your home state, it’s an expensive undertaking due to the travel costs.
So go ahead, travel to an exotic location to marry someone. But don’t expect that it’ll be as easy to untie that knot if things don’t work out.
Note: This article is not legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for an attorney’s advice. You should consult a properly licensed attorney with specific legal expertise to advise you.