Divorce While Living Abroad

The issues around getting divorced while living abroad should be thought of as a global as well as a local issue. That means that considerations will come up based on whether you are both living overseas in the same location and need to file for divorce in the country you are living in, even if you can, and whether that divorce will be recognized and actionable in your home country. A divorce living abroad or divorce overseas can be be a little more complicated since an expatriate divorce may need to adhere to local laws. A military divorce generally follows military divorce laws.

Divorce Overseas

The possibilities are vast with regards to the situations that can arise. It’s not as simple as one party to the marriage being overseas and wanting to initiate a divorce proceeding back in their home country. Probably more common is the divorce proceedings are being initiated by the spouse when the other party is overseas. This situation comes up in military life most commonly, as these are the situations where, for an extended period, one party is away from home. There are other cases where one party is overseas on a longer-term assignment and commuting to sustain the marriage is not possible. The parties draw further apart, probably were somewhat estranged before the move overseas, and the conditions that would have been influencing a possible divorce back home are still active.

Overseas Military Divorce

There are specific recommendations in the case of the military situation for the processing of the divorce action. If you take the specific situation of a U.S. military person being served papers for a divorce, caution should be taken, as there are certain codes within the U.S. Military Law that control the process and outcomes. Consulting a lawyer familiar with this situation is best.

Being in any foreign country at the time of initiating divorce proceedings should be carefully thought out. There are some foreign countries that have specific laws, for example Spain, that say that once proceedings are initiated in their country they cannot be moved to another. While this may be an anomaly, it is best to get local legal advice and research the environment in the local country to make sure that actions like this don’t lock out options and make the process untenable.

Being a non-military American civilian living abroad is of course a much easier situation to deal with. If you are the initiating person in the marriage for the divorce proceedings and you live abroad, most divorce decrees issued overseas for American citizens are recognized in the U.S. The conditions are:

  • Sufficient notice of the proceedings have been received by both parties; and
  • At the time of the divorce, one party is living in the foreign nation.

There is an operative definition for "living in", often known as domiciled. It is considered the nation or state of residence and has no intention of returning to that of your spouse or leaving.

An active military person can also look to have the proceedings delayed, particularly if there is a reason to contest the divorce. The Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act allows for the proceedings to be delayed while you are on active duty overseas plus an additional 60 days.

It is best to consult an attorney or other resource in the service so that your options are best understood and proper actions are taken.


  • If you need help with a Divorce, Click here for a Free Case Review from a Divorce Lawyer near you. The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice.
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