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The Invalidity Of A Foreign Divorce

While certain states across the U.S. vary when it comes to divorce laws, you can certainly expect different countries to vary. That is why it is so important to ensure that your foreign divorce will be recognized as valid once you return to the states. If you are a New York resident and recently got a divorce overseas, you need to ensure that this marital dissolution is deemed valid by state courts before moving forward.


Many times, when a couple is from another country, they prefer to use the legal and judicial system they are familiar with. For example, though a couple may reside and work in New York, they may choose to file for divorce in the country they were married in. This could be for many reasons, such as an easier filing process, cheaper legal fees, and general comfort due to familiarity. When neither spouse lives in this foreign country at the time of filing, New York court and U.S immigration authorities may see it as a “mail order” divorce if they did not return home and simply filed out paperwork through the mail.

New York will typically recognize these foreign divorce decrees on the basis of comity, however, the divorce must meet certain requirements for it to be deemed valid, including:

  • There was an appropriate amount of notice for both spouses;
  • It does not breach New York public policy;
  • At least one party has some physical presence in the court that orders it; and
  • The responding spouse has some type of appearance in foreign court (whether by physically showing up or by signing a document that allows the divorce to move forward).

If all of these requirements are not fulfilled, the court will likely not issue a decree of validation for the foreign divorce.


In order to get your foreign divorce validated, you should have certain proof ready to submit to the New York courts. This includes a certified copy of the foreign divorce decree from the court that issued it. The document will most likely need to be authenticated for the U.S. and you should obtain a certified English translation.

If the court recognizes the foreign divorce judgments, it will essentially serve as your foundation for any legal action regarding financial resources. For example, you can enforce a spousal support or child support order if necessary under this verification. If you do not get your divorce validated, you won’t be able to take any post-judgment financial action.

Need to ensure your foreign divorce decree is considered valid by the New York courts? Reach out to Peter L. Cedeño Associates, P.C. to set up a case consultation.
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