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How to divorce as a dual citizen

Last year, actress Kelly Rutherford made news when a family court judge ordered her two children, who are American citizens, to move to France to live with their father. The reason for that order was not because Rutherford was found to be an unfit mother, or because she has sufficient means to travel to her children. It was because the children's father was a German citizen who had been expelled from the United States.

Unfortunately, those cases (and those heartbreaking outcomes) are becoming more and more common these days as the Internet and the ease and availability of travel continue to make our world much smaller. People are meeting and marrying spouses from other parts of the world, and couples are moving to different countries for work or just for a change. But what happens when a couple decides to divorce in a different part of the world? Like most other areas of family law, the answer to this question is: it depends.

One of the initial (and potentially most difficult) challenges that couples will face is deciding where to divorce. When one or both spouses have dual citizenship - meaning they are legal citizens of two countries - it would seem that they are eligible to divorce in either. However, that is not always the case. Depending on the relevant family laws of each nation, the court with the jurisdiction over your divorce will most likely be the country in which you're living when you file.

As such, if you have the time and the financial means to do so, it may be a good idea to research the family laws of each country and relocate, if necessary, to the country that will handle your divorce more fairly. A family law attorney that specializes in international divorce can help you find the jurisdiction that is best for you.

Source: Forbes, "Small Word, Big Problem: Divorces Involving Dual Citizenship," Jeff Landers, Jan. 10, 2013

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