Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is often a complicated process, not only emotionally but also legally. Tensions run high and there is often a lot at stake. A divorce can become more complicated if one of the spouses is not a U.S. citizen and seeks to file the divorce in Florida.
If you or your spouse is not a U.S. citizen and you are thinking about filing for divorce in Florida, it is important that you consult an attorney specializing in international family and immigration law. When you meet with the attorney, she will help you determine:
1) whether you can file for divorce in Florida;
2) whether you or your spouse’s immigration status will affect the process of getting
divorced in Florida; and
3) what are some other legal implications of filing for divorce in Florida.
Let’s discuss each question.
1) If I am not a U.S Citizen can I file for divorce in Florida? Yes. A Non-U.S. citizen may file for divorce in Florida so long as at least the spouse filing for divorce is a Florida resident. See § 61.021, Fla. Stat.
Whether you can initiate a divorce in Florida depends on whether or not you are considered by the state of Florida to be residents of the state. The question of whether someone is a Florida resident is a legal question that you should address with your attorney. Legal Florida residence depends primarily on whether you have maintained a legal domicile in Florida for six (6) months immediately preceding filing for divorce and whether you can show that you intended to make Florida your permanent residence during that time. If a non-U.S. citizen meets the Florida residency standards, they are eligible to file for divorce in Florida, regardless of their U.S. visa status. Sometimes, they may even be eligible to file for divorce in Florida without a valid visa.
2) Does my immigration status or my spouse’s immigration status affect the process of getting divorced in Florida? No, as long as the spouse filing for divorce is a resident of Florida; however, filing for a divorce may affect your immigration status.
As long the spouse filing for divorce is considered by the state of Florida to be a permanent resident of Florida, their immigration status and their spouse’s immigration status does not directly affect their eligibility to file for divorce in Florida. However, a person or their spouse’s immigration status may affect the divorce process in other ways. For example, when one of the spouse’s immigration status is dependent on the other spouse’s U.S. citizenship, the non-citizen’s immigration status may be jeopardized if they divorce. The non-citizen will need to seek immediate guidance from an attorney specializing not only in Florida Family Law, but also from an attorney with knowledge of Federal Immigration Law.
3) What are some other legal implications of getting divorced in Florida?
Often non-U.S. citizens have property outside of the U.S. In Florida, the legal divorce process usually involves the division of marital property between the spouses. You should be concerned about whether the Florida court has jurisdiction, or control, over what happens to marital property outside of the U.S.
Another issue to consider with your attorney is whether a Florida divorce judgment awarding alimony, determining child custody, and child support obligations will be enforceable against a non-U.S. citizen spouse in another country.
All of these issues depend on the facts of your particular situation and must be addressed by a caring and competent attorney who focuses on international legal issues relating to divorce. I would be happy to help you to work through these issues. Please give me a call at (954) 529-2057, or stop by my office in Weston for a free consultation in Spanish or English.