In today’s interconnected world, people can fall in love from across the globe. Unfortunately, sometimes the novelty and excitement of a foreign love affair wears off after marriage, and the couple ends up divorcing.

When your spouse is a foreign national, the process of obtaining a divorce is generally the same as if your spouse was a U.S. citizen. However, there are a few important differences which must be accounted for before a divorce begins.

Status of Residency

When an American citizen marries a non-resident, that person will usually be given conditional permanent residency status. This is a big step on the pathway to citizenship. At twenty-four months from the granting of conditional permanent residency, the non-citizen spouse can petition the Immigration and Naturalization Services for removal of the conditional residence status.

The petition for removal of the conditions of status must be filed within 90 days of the two year anniversary of granting of the status. A problem arises due to divorce because the petition must be a joint-petition—meaning that if the spouses have subsequently divorced, they still must both sign the petition. Getting the cooperation of an ex-spouse can be very difficult for the non-citizen spouse. If the ex-spouse doesn’t cooperate, the non-citizen spouse may apply for a hardship waiver or a battered spouse waiver. These waivers are fact intensive and should be handled by an experienced immigration attorney.

Service Requirements

In addition to issues with residency, there may be additional complications if your spouse is no longer living in the country. In this case, spouses who are married to a non-citizen must make sure that they follow the rules for service of the divorce paperwork both in their own state and in their spouse’s home country.

The U.S. Department of State’s website lists these rules and the various treaties which apply to that area of the world. Usually, in order for service of process to be valid in a U.S. Court, it must also be valid in the country where your spouse is from. Often, the spouse may be able to be served via the mail system or through a designated foreign agent.

Proceeding with Divorce

Once the spouse has been served with the divorce paperwork, the case will generally proceed as normal. Your spouse will be expected to attend court hearings, either in person or possibly by telephone, and will have the same type of rights as the citizen spouse. This may mean that issues regarding custody or foreign visitation will be more complicated, but they can be negotiated with the help of a skilled family law attorney.

At Pacific Northwest Family Law, we can help you plan for these contingencies during your divorce. Our attorneys help parents work with each other to create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your children, no matter where each spouse resides. Through mediation, negotiation, or litigation if necessary, our knowledgeable Washington family law attorneys will take your side and help you through difficult situations.

If you would like help with parenting plans, child support, visitation, or any other family law issue call 360-926-9112 to schedule your appointment today.