Air travel and the internet have made the world feel a little smaller. It’s easier than ever for people to meet, fall in love, and start families with someone born on another continent. This has been excellent for diversity and makes families more vibrant. However, it does pose problems if an international couple decides to divorce and return to their home countries.
While faster travel and instant communication have made maintaining long-distance relationships easier, they haven’t touched the complexity of transnational divorce. These splits can affect families in ways that are significantly less common in intranational divorces. Let’s explore what makes transnational divorces unique, how they can affect families, and what you can do to mitigate the impact of your split on your children.
Considerations That Make International Divorces Unique
Certain things are true about breaking up no matter where you live. Divorcing your co-parent will likely cause strong emotions and logistical challenges whether you live in the US, Japan, France, or Egypt. However, some factors make international splits more complicated:
- Differing Rights: The US has laws that guarantee people equal treatment during divorce and custody battles regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability status, and more. However, this isn’t true in every country. If one partner lives in a country that doesn’t guarantee spouses equal rights, it could seriously impact the divorce process.
- Application and Enforcement of Laws: Within the US, most states have adopted laws like the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act and the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act. While each state may have differing rules on how divorces and support orders should be handled, these laws ensure that every state honors lawful agreements and decrees issued within the US. However, the same cannot be said across national borders. The US has treaties requiring reciprocity with foreign jurisdictions, but these vary significantly. It can be difficult to ensure an order issued in the US is enforced in other countries or vice versa.
- Cultural Norms: Every country and culture has its own expectations and norms around divorce. While divorce and joint custody are increasingly normalized in the US, other countries may still expect custody to be awarded to the mother or the father. Furthermore, some countries still treat divorce as taboo, making it harder to have your split recognized.
- Cost of Travel: Going to most other countries from the US is easier than ever, but it is still a costly and time-consuming process compared to traveling within the country. This can make appearing in person for divorce hearings difficult if you and your spouse live in separate nations.
These considerations make international divorce complex, but they do not make it impossible. When you understand how the process may affect your family, you can prepare yourself and your kids and avoid many of the most painful potential problems.
How Transnational Divorce Affects Parents and Children
The issues mentioned above can and often do complicate international divorces. However, it’s worth examining their specific impacts on your family relationships. Three of the most common difficulties families experience as a result of these splits are:
In the US, parents often share joint physical and legal custody. This allows both adults to spend time raising their children and grants them the right to make important decisions about their upbringing, such as where they go to school, receive medical care, or attend religious events.
However, when parents live in different countries, it becomes significantly harder to split custody. The parent who remains in the country where the children habitually live will often be granted primary or sole custody to reduce these issues.
Maintaining Relationships and Support Networks
Similarly, when divorced parents live in different countries, it can be difficult for the noncustodial parent to maintain strong relationships with the children. It may be necessary to schedule video calls and other virtual quality time to ensure the kids can keep their relationship with both parents. The same is true for the children’s extended family and other members of their support network.
If a custody and support order is issued in the US, it is not necessarily enforceable in other countries, and vice versa. In other words, just because you have a parenting plan established in the US does not mean your co-parent’s government will enforce it. If your co-parent refuses to follow visitation and custody schedules, this could pose serious problems. Both parents need to consult with skilled international divorce attorneys in their country of residence to ensure they understand their rights and options if the other person chooses to disregard an order.
Mitigating the Impact of International Divorces on Your Children
The first and most important way to reduce the impact of your divorce on your kids is to prepare for them to stay in their “habitual” home country unless you and your spouse agree otherwise. It is widely accepted that this is best for kids because it allows them to remain somewhere familiar, where they hopefully have an established support network.
Furthermore, under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction, attempting to remove a child from their home country before a custody order is reached is considered abduction. The Convention is enforced by the US and 97 other countries, which will return the abducted children to their home nation.
Another important way to streamline your transnational divorce is to collaborate with your spouse. When you work together, it’s significantly easier to draft divorce decrees, custody agreements, and support orders that function in both countries. You can negotiate details of your parenting plan and other orders to suit your children’s best interests, your preferences, and the practical restrictions of budgets and schedules.
Whether or not you can negotiate with your spouse, you should consult with a skilled international divorce attorney like those at the Law Offices of Diane J.N. Morin Inc. Our experienced team is prepared to help you understand your rights and protections during transnational divorces. Schedule your consultation today to discuss how we can support your family’s needs while you’re ending your international marriage.