NJ Court Recognizing A Foreign Divorce

A foreign divorce can refer to a divorce in a state other than the one you live in or a divorce in another country. In the case of a divorce in a different state, recognition of that divorce in other states is relatively straightforward. Recognition of a divorce in another country, however, may be more complicated. If you have any questions in regard to New Jersey recognizing a divorce from another jurisdiction, you should consult with a knowledgeable divorce lawyer in NJ.

Out of State Divorce

With very few exceptions, all the states in the US will recognize divorce judgments from other states. The exceptions to this rule include judgments that are granted without notice to the other spouse, in which case no state will recognize the divorce.

Every state in the US has a jurisdictional (residency) requirement that must be satisfied if you wish to obtain a divorce in that state. The requirements vary from state to state, but generally either spouse must live in the state for a certain period of time; in New Jersey the requirement is one year while other states have 90-day residency rules. So long as the divorce was granted in a state that has jurisdiction over the case, and proper notice was given to the other spouse, New Jersey will enforce the divorce judgment. By way of example, if Wife lives in New Jersey and Husband lives in State X, and Husband meets the residency requirement for a State X divorce, State X may have jurisdiction over the divorce proceeding. Once the State X divorce judgment is granted, New Jersey will recognize the divorce.

Foreign Country Divorce

Comity is the legal principle that allows the United States to recognize the divorce judgments made in foreign countries. As with out of state divorces, a key to enforcing a foreign country divorce is adequate notice to both parties of the divorce proceeding. Additionally, as with out of state divorces the foreign divorce must have been granted in a country where at least one spouse was domiciled (living) at the time of the divorce.

The main question for a New Jersey court in determining whether to recognize a foreign divorce is whether both parties participated in the divorce process. Additionally, the foreign divorce must be in line with the public policy of the state of New Jersey.

An example of recognition of a foreign divorce in New Jersey is the case of Ali v. Ali. In Ali, the wife was America and husband Palestinian. The couple lived in Gaza with their son for several years and then separated with the wife moving to New Jersey and the husband and son staying in Gaza. Thereafter the husband and son moved to the US for two years and then returned to Gaza. In Gaza the husband obtained an ex parte divorce (without notice or participation by the wife), and an order of custody for the son.

The wife filed for divorce in New Jersey and argued that the Gaza divorce and custody judgment were not entitled to recognition in New Jersey, because they were ex parte and not based on the public policy of New Jersey. Specifically, the custody order in Gaza was based on Islamic law, which entitles a father to custody of his son when he is 7 years old, whereas New Jersey custody orders are based on the best interest of the child. The court agreed with the wife and did not recognize the Gaza custody agreement.

Quickie Divorces

Attempts at obtaining “quickie divorces” in other countries by one spouse without notice to the other spouse will be closely scrutinized and often not enforced by the state of New Jersey.

If you have questions about whether your divorce will be recognized in New Jersey, please call Peter Van Aulen a NJ divorce lawyer at (201) 845-7400 for a free consultation.

Sources
Hilton v. Guyot, 159 U.S. 113 (1895)
Ali v. Ali, 279 N.J. Super. 154 (Ch. Div. 1994).

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