In the first three-fourths of the 1900s, it was possible to travel to Reno for a “quickie” divorce – a divorce that could be handled immediately without any residency requirement or waiting period. Nevada and Reno, in particular, were known for fast, simple, divorces that didn’t require much time or even too much of an explanation. Those days are long gone, but some people still hope for a speedy divorce.
Divorce in the U.S.
All U.S. states have some kind of residency requirement; however, Alaska, South Dakota, and Washington allow a person to file for divorce the moment they arrive in the state as long as they intend to become a resident. This offers the opportunity to file for divorce there without being present in the state for any period of time before filing. In contrast, some states have residency requirements of weeks or months, so you cannot file for divorce unless you have been present in the state for the required period of time.
The other hold-up to divorce in U.S. states is waiting periods. Many states impose a waiting period between the date the initial divorce papers are filed and when the case can begin to move forward. This is intended to create a cooling-off period so that people do not rush into a divorce and are forced to take time to consider the implications. The only states without waiting periods are Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Note that Alaska is the only state with no residency requirement and no waiting period. If you cannot already meet the residency requirement in your home state or if you do not wish to sit through the waiting period required in your home state, Alaska offers a faster alternative.
Some countries are in the business of granting fast divorces. However, there are significant roadblocks. The first thing to note is that the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that a divorce granted in a foreign country that was unilateral (only one spouse consented to the divorce) is not accepted as valid in the United States. This article does not discuss unilateral divorce options since they are not valid paths to divorce in American courts’ eyes. Two countries offer fast divorce options that are valid:
Haiti offers a fast bilateral (where both parties consent) divorce. However, it is important to note that Haiti is a volatile country with humanitarian concerns and civil unrest, making it unsafe for travel.
A bilateral divorce in Haiti follows these steps:
- One spouse goes to Haiti and files for the divorce and provides a letter of information and the marriage certificate.
- The other spouse must complete a waiver, power of attorney, and a form submitting themselves to the jurisdiction of the Haitian court. He or she does not need to appear in person.
- A separation agreement setting out the spouse’s agreement about property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support can be submitted. If it is submitted, the court incorporates it into the divorce. If not, the court makes its own decision about these matters.
- The hearing is held with the spouse who is in the country.
- The traveling spouse can leave Haiti that same day.
- The court issues the judgment of divorce within 24 hours after the hearing.
- The judgment is sent via mail to the spouse who appeared.
- The U.S. Embassy in Haiti can be asked to authenticate the judgment which lends it more authority.
While the Dominican Republic offers a fast bilateral divorce, the caveat about this option is that most U.S. courts will not recognize the divorce unless one of the parties establishes residency in the Dominican Republic. However, New York state is the exception and will recognize a fast Dominican divorce without established residency in the country.
To get a fast divorce in the Dominican Republic, the following steps must be followed:
- One spouse must travel to the country.
- The other spouse must sign a notarized power of attorney, submitting to the Dominican jurisdiction.
- A separation agreement determining property division, child support, spousal support, and child custody must be signed and submitted by both parties.
- The divorce filing must include the marriage certificate and birth certificates for children of the marriage.
- The hearing is held on one day, and the traveling spouse can leave that day.
- The divorce is issued within one to four weeks.
- The divorce is then filed in the registry office.
- There is a 60-day period in which either spouse can appeal the divorce.
- A notice about the divorce must be published in a newspaper chosen by the court to become completely valid.
U.S. Territory of Guam
There is one more overseas divorce option available in the U.S. territory of Guam. There are some requirements to be aware of if you want to obtain a divorce in Guam. First of all, Guam has a 90-day residency requirement, but if both spouses agree to submit themselves to the jurisdiction of the court, then there is no proof required of residency. Thus, it is possible to obtain a divorce in Guam without even going there at all.
To obtain a Guam divorce, the following procedure occurs:
- Both spouses are required to sign a notarized form consenting to the jurisdiction of the Guam court.
- You must hire an attorney in Guam who handles overseas divorce to handle your divorce case.
- A hearing is scheduled and held about five weeks after the filing. It is possible to request that the case be fast-tracked if you pay an additional fee. In that case, the hearing can occur within a few days.
- The hearing is held, and the divorce is granted.
Risks of Overseas Divorce
The risk with any kind of overseas divorce is that your case will not be handled with the care and careful legal advice necessary. In particular, a high net worth couple should never consider a fast overseas divorce because property division must be handled by a knowledgeable, experienced attorney who protects their client’s rights and best interests.
If you are hoping for a fast divorce, the best option is to talk with your attorney about accepted methods that can speed up the process, such as mediation, settlement talks, or using a private judge. Without question, the best way to ensure your divorce will move quickly is to have prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place which determines all of the issues at hand in a divorce.