A common question we hear during our initial divorce consultations is, “Can I divorce my spouse here in the U.S. if we were married in another country?”  The answer is "Yes." 

In Minnesota, a party seeking to divorce his spouse must have at least six months of residency in Minnesota before commencing a divorce proceeding.  The important point is that it does not matter if the other spouse resides outside of Minnesota, or even outside of the United States.  What is important is that the other spouse receives proper notice.  The spouse petitioning for divorce must ensure that he or she correctly serves notice of the proceedings, in the form of a summons and petition for dissolution of marriage, by complying with state divorce statutes and international service laws when the other spouse is outside of the United States. 

It may be tempting to assume that years of separation from a spouse will somehow convert into a lawful divorce, but this is false.  Under Minnesota law and the law of almost all states, a person is still married even if you have not seen your spouse in 30 years.  Until a judge says you are divorced, you are married.  There is a popular misconception that “abandonment” divorces you because you do not know your spouse’s whereabouts.  The law does not relieve of you of the responsibility of having a judge officially divorce you.

When planning nuptials to a future spouse, make sure you are free to marry.  If you have not properly obtained a divorce and then marry someone, the second marriage is void, and the State could charge you with bigamy.  Additionally, a divorce filed in a foreign country, where neither party is residing there at the time of the divorce, is invalid.  Do not fall prey to an ad promising a “quick” divorce in countries like the Dominican Republic.  You have to go there for the divorce to have any value.  If you and your spouse are not citizens of that country and are not residing there, no state (with the possible exception of New York) will recognize your divorce.  You will lose money and time for a worthless “divorce document”, and you will have to start over to achieve your intended goal. 

Wilson Law Group’s experienced family law attorneys can help you to make sure your divorce will be lawful and final.  We litigate dissolutions across state and international borders, and get our clients the results they deserve.  Please contact our office at 612.436.7100 to schedule a free consultation if you have additional questions about this topic or any other family law topic.  You may also schedule a consultation online by selecting the attorney's website profile and clicking “schedule a consultation”.