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When Expats Get Divorced

Although all couples experience stressors to their marriages, those living abroad as expatriates (commonly called “expats”) often find these difficulties are amplified when living a new culture, far from friends, family and their previous support systems.

According to a new study on expat marriages, the so-called “trailing” spouses of expat workers often feel isolated and without an identity in their new home abroad. When onerous travel and excessive work hours are added to this, a common result is divorce.

But getting a divorce as an expat can be tricky, especially if one of the partners has returned to the United States. International custody battles are common, and sometimes it is unclear which country has jurisdiction over divorce proceedings. There is also the tremendous expense of relocating family members and households.

International custody concerns

In terms of custody issues, most cases fall under the provisions of the Hague Convention of 1980, which requires that the children remain in the country where custody is under dispute. However, many Middle Eastern countries are not members of the convention and will automatically award the father custody.

In some cases, one partner has returned home to the United States with the children, only to have the partner abroad invoke the Hague Convention. Others have had difficulty even leaving the country with their children.

Other considerations

In some countries joint bank accounts are prohibited so when couples separate, one partner (who is often female) can be cut off from access to the funds necessary for support. And countries like England may not find a prenuptial agreement enforceable, since their law finds them against public policy. In any event, you will want to obtain legal help to navigate what can be a complicated process.

For further guidance on divorce and child custody issues, consult a dedicated family law attorney at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, serving clients throughout Long Island. 

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