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The Australian’s Handbook to Divorcing Someone Overseas: Steps and Considerations

Divorcing Someone Overseas | Justice Family Lawyers

In today’s globalised world, international marriages are increasingly common. But what happens when these marriages hit rocky shores?

The complexities of divorcing someone overseas are vast, especially for Australians navigating foreign laws.

Our divorce lawyers will unpack the essentials, offering clear insights for those facing such unique challenges. Let’s delve into what you need to know.


Recognising Divorces from Overseas

Australia stands out globally with its “no-fault divorce” system, making divorce proceedings relatively straightforward. 

Generally, Australia will recognise a divorce from overseas. There is no need to register that divorce in Australia.

Section 104 of the Family Law Act 1975 states that certain conditions must be met for Australia to recognise a foreign divorce.

Notably, the respondent in the foreign proceedings should either be a resident or a citizen of that specific country.

As international marriages grow, it becomes crucial for couples to understand these nuances.

Whether pondering an overseas divorce or navigating one, familiarising yourself with these regulations can be a game-changer.


Criteria for filing a divorce in Australia when married overseas

You must satisfy the jurisdictional requirement by fitting into one of these categories:

  1. Either spouse must be an Australian citizen: It’s not just about being born in Australia; citizenship can be attained through various means, including naturalisation. If one partner holds Australian citizenship, you’re one step closer to meeting the divorce criteria.
  2. Residence in Australia for at least 12 months: Simply put, one of the spouses must have lived in Australia for at least a year before initiating the divorce process. This residency establishes a tangible connection with the nation and its legal jurisdiction.
  3. Perception of Australia as a permanent home: Beyond living in Australia, one partner must view the country as their indefinite home. This perspective indicates a more profound commitment to residing within its borders, irrespective of the marriage’s outcome.

Necessary documentation to support these criteria: Various proofs are necessary to solidify your divorce application. This might include documents like:

      • Australian citizenship certificate, 
      • Visa
      • Passport
      • A birth certificate or evidence of continuous residency, among others. 

Ensure every piece of paperwork is in order, which forms the backbone of your divorce proceedings.

Original Marriage Certificate and Translation

Australia mandates that the original marriage certificate, or a verified copy, be provided during the divorce process.

If the certificate is in a language other than English, an English translation by a certified translator is also necessary

. Ensure you have these documents in order, as they are the foundational proof of your marriage.

Serving Divorce Applications Overseas

If your spouse resides abroad, they must still be informed of the divorce proceedings.

This process, known as ‘serving’ the divorce application, can be complex with international boundaries.

The spouse usually gets a 42-day notice period to respond once served.

Familiarising yourself with the Hague Convention can be beneficial, as many countries are signatories and have specific rules around service.


When the Spouse Can’t Be Located

There are instances where one might not be able to locate their spouse. In such cases, the Australian courts offer two leading solutions:

  • Substituted Service: This allows the divorce application to be served to someone in contact with the spouse or at their last known address.
  • Dispensation of Service: In extreme cases where the spouse is untraceable, the court might grant a ‘dispensation of service’, essentially waiving the need to serve the divorce application.

Being well-acquainted with these procedural nuances ensures you don’t hit unexpected roadblocks and can promptly progress the divorce.


Implications of Divorcing Someone Overseas as Regards Immigration Status

A divorce doesn’t just untangle personal relationships; it can also significantly impact one’s immigration status, especially in Australia, where partner visas are common. If you or your spouse is on a visa based on your marital status, it’s crucial to understand the subsequent implications and steps to take:

  • Notification Requirements to DIAC: Once a couple decides to separate or divorce, there’s a legal obligation to inform the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). Timely communication is vital, as delays can lead to complications or perceived breaches of visa conditions.
  • Consequences for Visa Holders: A separation can jeopardise your visa if you’re in Australia on a temporary partner visa predicated on your relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident. While the visa isn’t automatically revoked upon divorce, DIAC evaluates the separation’s circumstances. Factors like genuine commitment before the split and instances of domestic violence can influence their decision.
  • Potential to Stay Post-Divorce: While a divorce might create uncertainty around your visa status, it doesn’t automatically mean deportation. There are specific conditions under which an individual might be allowed to stay in Australia post-divorce:
      • If there are children involved, especially if they are Australian citizens, the best interests of the child can play a significant role.
      • In instances of domestic violence, the victim might be given consideration to stay, given that they can provide the necessary evidence.
      • Depending on individual circumstances, skills, or employment opportunities, other visa pathways might also be explored.
      • Recognising these implications is vital. It’s always recommended to seek advice from an immigration lawyer or consultant to understand the nuances and ensure compliance with all regulations.


How Australian Divorce Differs Globally

When navigating the intricacies of divorce, understanding the global context is beneficial. Though universally challenging, divorce proceedings vary significantly from one country to another based on cultural, legal, and social norms. Here’s a glance at how Australian divorce proceedings contrast with other nations:

  • Canada: Similar to Australia, Canada also adopts the ‘no-fault’ divorce system. However, Canadian law has three grounds for divorce: living separately and apart for a year, adultery, and physical or mental cruelty.
  • America: The U.S. presents a patchwork of laws, as divorce statutes vary significantly between states. While some states employ a ‘no-fault’ system like Australia, others require grounds such as adultery, desertion, or cruelty. The process and length can vary drastically from one state to another.
  • India: Divorce in India can be a lengthy affair, primarily influenced by the personal laws of various religious communities. Grounds for divorce include cruelty, desertion, conversion to another religion, mental disorders, and more. Mutual consent divorces are also an option, but the process is often lengthy and complex.
  • Singapore: While Singapore operates on a fault-based system, it also recognises ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as grounds for divorce. The country places a considerable emphasis on the child’s welfare, often involving the court in child custody matters.

Diving deeper into unique regulations:

  • Philippines: It stands out as one of the few nations where divorce is not legally recognised for non-Muslims, forcing many to seek annulments, which is a lengthy and expensive process. However, Muslims in the Philippines have the right to divorce.
  • Chile: In Chile, no-fault divorces are not granted. Couples must prove grounds like infidelity, abuse, or abandonment, making the process emotionally and legally challenging.
  • Japan: Japanese divorce laws are intriguingly simplistic; couples can separate by mutual consent using a signed, sealed, and filed one-page form. Yet, its aftermath can be complex, particularly concerning child custody. Japan generally doesn’t provide joint parental control, and children post-divorce often reside solely with one parent.

Understanding these differences underscores the complexity and cultural nuances of divorce globally. Recognising these international variations is paramount whether considering a split or staying informed.


Divorcing Someone Overseas?

Navigating an international divorce can be complex and overwhelming. At Justice Family Lawyers, we specialise in helping Australians untangle the intricacies of overseas separations.

With expert knowledge and a compassionate approach, we’ll guide you through every step, ensuring your rights are protected. Don’t face this challenge alone. Reach out to Justice Family Lawyers today.