Legal Question in Family Law in Virginia

foreign divorce

Is a divorce in the Dominican Republic legal and recognized in he state of Virginia and the U.S. as a whole? If so what are the main things to look for so that a person does not get a bogus invalid and unrecognizable divorce decree?

Asked on 4/07/06, 10:19 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Michael E. Hendrickson Attorney & Counsellor at Law
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Re: foreign divorce

As a practical matter, if at all possible, American citizens should avoid becoming involved in divorces in all other countries of the Western Hemisphere with the exception of Canada.

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Answered on 4/08/06, 12:12 pm
James Wilson James H. Wilson, Jr., Attorney & Counsellor at Law
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Re: foreign divorce

You should consult with a Virginia lawyer concerning the application of the law to the facts of your particular case. The following is general legal information on the recognition of foreign divorces in Virginia.

A foreign divorce, a divorce obtained in another state or a foreign country, may or may not be recognized as valid in Virginia. With regard to a divorce decree from another state, Section 1 of Article 4 of the U.S. Constitution provides as follows:

Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

A Virginia court will look behind a foreign divorce decree to examine if the court had the jurisdiction to hear the case.

“* * * a decree of divorce by a court not having jurisdiction of both parties and of the subject matter does not come within the full faith and credit clause of the federal constitution, and is entitled to no recognition whatever in the courts of another state or country, it being invalid, void, and without legal consequences. It is not rendered valid by a subsequent attempt by one of the parties to marry a third person by ceremony or contract.” 27 C.J.S. 1289 (sec. 331). See also Smith v. Foto, 285 Mich. 362, 280 S.W. 790, 120 A.L.R. 802 and note; Holt v. Holt, 77 F.(2d) 538, and Andrews v. Andrews, 288 U.S. 14, 23 S. Ct. 237, 47 L. Ed. 366.”

Howe v. Howe, 179 Va. 111, 120-121, 18 S.E.2d 294, ___ (1941)

“Under the more recent decisions of the Supreme Court, the [Page 175] effect which must be given, under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Federal Constitution, by one state to a divorce decree rendered in another state, may be summarized as follows: (1) Domicile of one party to the divorce proceeding creates an adequate relationship with that state to justify its exercise of power over the marital relation; (2) Where the decree has been rendered upon constructive service of process, and there has been no appearance by or on behalf of the defendant spouse, the question of domicile as basis of the jurisdiction of the court granting the decree may be re-examined at the instance of a person who would be prejudiced in regard to some pre-existing right, if the decree were given full effect; and (3) Where the decree is not susceptible to collateral attack in the courts of the state which granted the decree, it is not subject to such attack in other states. Cf. 17 Am. Jur., Divorce and Separation, § 751.5, Cumulative Supplement, 1951, page 125”

Evans v. Asphalt Roads, Etc., Co., 194 Va. 165, 174-175, 72 S.E.2d 321, ___ (1952)

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Answered on 4/07/06, 1:39 pm

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