Is a Divorce from Another State or Country Valid in Virginia?

In today’s society, people move around – sometimes, quite often. If you’re in the military, you may need to move around very often. You don’t have to get divorced in the same state in which you’re married. In fact, you don’t even have to get divorced in this country for your state to recognize a foreign divorce, but for public policy reasons, and to avoid people from forum shopping for their divorce, Virginia does have residence requirements that need to be met before a Virginia court will recognize your divorce from another country or divorce from another state.

Armed service members and their families may be subject to other rules regarding residency, including filing for divorce in states in which they’re stationed.

Divorce from Another State

Pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause contained in our U.S. Constitution, each state must recognize the judgments and legal decisions of another state so long as the state’s policies or decisions do not violate the following state’s policies. For example, if a state recognized bigamous marriages, Virginia courts would not recognize them here. To first obtain the divorce from another state, the filing spouse must have given you notice of the divorce proceedings by properly serving you, and the filing spouse must have at least met the minimum residency requirements of that state. Furthermore, that state cannot typically adjudicate child support and child custody issues if the state did not recognize what would be in the children’s best interests and the children did not reside in that state pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

Divorce from Another Country

You can get divorced in another country and U.S. courts will recognize your foreign divorce under the principles of comity. Comity means that foreign countries will give validity and recognize one another’s laws. However, comity only applies in certain circumstances, and in some cases, your foreign divorce may be invalid, in which case, your subsequent marriage may be viewed as invalid or bigamous – a different topic altogether. Generally, a U.S. court will recognize your foreign divorce if one spouse was a legal resident of that country at the time he or she filed for divorce, and the spouse not residing there must have received valid service or legal notice of the pending divorce in that country.

One important thing to keep in mind is that the foreign divorce may only apply to the actual decree of divorce itself, and it may not apply to any other proceedings typically involved in divorce, including property rights and distributions and child custody decisions. The important factor to keep in mind is that Virginia courts will usually not recognize foreign divorces if they violate our public policies.

How Do I File for Divorce in Virginia?

To file for divorce in Virginia, the filing spouse must meet the minimum residency and jurisdictional requirements. Additionally, you must be able to prove proper venue in the specific Circuit Court in which you’re filing for divorce in Virginia. Section 20-97 of the 1950 Code of Virginia, as amended, contains the statutory requirements as to how you need to serve your spouse and where you can file for divorce in Virginia. There are also many useful publications available for free to help you understand the basic elements of how to file for divorce in Virginia. Virginia divorce lawyers can help you understand the legal process of foreign divorces and whether Virginia courts will recognize them.

If you live in Virginia and believe you haven’t been properly served or notified of the divorce proceedings in another state or from another country, or you believe the country or state issuing the divorce did not have jurisdiction over your spouse, you may be able to challenge that divorce decree by contacting a Virginia divorce lawyer.

Fairfax Family Law Lawyer; Virginia Divorce Lawyer: If you’re looking for an experienced Virginia divorce lawyer or Fairfax family law attorney, contact Keithley Law, PLLC today by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office.

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