In cases of international divorce, which courts have international divorce jurisdiction and where should such a case be filed?

The most critical decision in strategic international divorce planning comes before a divorce case is first filed.

The decisive issue is often: Where to file?

The difference between filing for divorce in France instead of England or in Japan instead of the U.S. can be staggering.

Yes most litigants never do their homework and many family lawyers never advise them to do so and do not have the international know-how to guide them through the process.

A divorcing spouse who is in an international marriage with significant assets or earning potential should undertake strategic international strategic planning process with experienced international family law counsel.

Otherwise they may find themselves with a prenuptial agreement that could have been upheld –or set aside — if only they had filed elsewhere, or with a multi-million dollar claim for the present value of a professional qualification earned during marriage that could have been defeated — or successfully asserted — if they had known that another jurisdiction was available.

On the other hand, many people mistakenly assume that they are free to search the world for the best divorce forum without understanding that they need to consider not only whether the courts in that country will accept the case but also whether the courts in the place where the other spouse lives or where the assets are located will recognize the divorce. Many non-resident Indians rush to India for a divorce without considering whether their decree will have any effect in the United States. Others fly for a weekend for a quickie Dominican divorce, often enticed by misleading information on internet web sites that “sell” fast divorces, without realizing that their divorce may be useless and often counter-productive.

Spouses in an international marriage who have children also need to understand that the rules about international child custody jurisdiction are often totally different than the rules about divorce jurisdiction. In fact, in the United States there are three entirely different kinds of jurisdiction in any case concerning international married couples with children. Each type of jurisdiction has entirely different rules.

First, there are the rules that govern whether a court has the right to grant a judgment of divorce.

Second, there are the different rules that govern whether a court has jurisdiction over the person of a defendant sufficient to enable it to handle the financial matters that result from a divorce.

Third, there are the rules that result from the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”) as to whether a state’s courts may determine child custody and child visitation.

The bottom line: Before you undertake an international divorce, ask an informed international family lawyer for a strategic international divorce plan.