Dual Citizenship and Divorce (Part One)

Dual Citizenship and Divorce (Part One)

As a Chicago divorce lawyer, I have directly handled Illinois divorce cases and family law matters involving dual citizenship.  These cases essentially involve the situation in which one, or both, parties to a marriage are citizens of two or more countries.  Divorce cases that include dual citizenship issues can be quite complex.  This complexity is due to the following: the concept of dual citizenship itself, jurisdictional issues as to what court will decide divorce issues (including everything from alimony to property distribution to child custody), and the legal recognition of the divorce proceeding.  The following is the first portion in my two part series on divorces that involve dual citizenship.

What is Dual Citizenship?
A key to better understanding divorce cases involving “dual citizenship” is to gain an understanding of what this term actually means.  Dual citizenship is sometimes referred to as “dual nationality.”  Both terms describe the situation in which a person is a citizen of two or more countries at the same time.

Depending on the situation, dual citizenship can take place automatically, or it can be a matter of choice.  For example, in a custody case, if a child is born in a foreign country and both parents are U.S. citizens, it can take place automatically.  Here, the child is both a U.S. citizen, as well as a citizen of the country in which he as born.

In other cases, dual citizenship is made by choice.  For example, consider a citizen of Canada.  This person, for a host of different reasons, may apply to become a U.S. citizen.  If the application is accepted, the person becomes a dual citizen of both Canada and the U.S.  Regardless as to whether dual citizenship is obtained automatically or by choice, dual nationals owe allegiance to each country in which they are citizens and are required to obey the laws of each country.

How Does Dual Citizenship Impact A Divorce?
The simple answer is that dual citizenship throws a complicated wrench into the entire divorce mix.  Many of these complications relate to jurisdictional issues.  As an example, consider a wife holding dual U.S. and British citizenship.  She lives with her husband in London and both parties want to dissolve their marriage.  But what country will have jurisdiction over the divorce proceedings?  The U.S.?  Britain?  Both?

The answer is extremely important because divorce rights and divorce laws can differ tremendously among differing countries.  Put simply, Illinois divorce laws are not the same as those applied in China.  Further, differences in divorce rights and divorce laws, even slight, can have enormous impacts on such critical issues as alimony, custody, and property distribution.

So, what country will have jurisdiction over a divorce proceeding involving dual nationals?  The answer is soon to come!

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