The Wall Street Journal this week has a good article on the challenges and issues facing an expatriate who ends up going through a divorce either while they are overseas (or as is often the case, caused by the time they are overseas). The story grows out of a study by Yvonne McNulty of SIM University in Singapore, “Till Stress Do Us Part: The Causes and Consequences of Expatriate Divorce”, which will be published in April.
The article discusses the different issues that arise, often including long work hours for the working spouse and feelings of isolation by the entire family who may be thousands of miles from any social network or family to help support them. On the financial front, many countries in the survey do not allow married couples to have joint bank accounts, which leaves one of the spouses at a decided financial disadvantage immediately if the marriage has broken down.
The largest issue that confronts many expatriate couples is where there are children and the custody of those children ends up being in dispute. For international purposes, the Hague Convention directs the children to remain in the country where custody is disputed, if you are located in the Middle East, where most countries did not sign on to the treaty, you are subject to the local laws of that country.
Another issue that couples can run into that is not specifically addressed by the article is where the parties have a prenuptial agreement that complies with their local laws, but may not be enforced by a foreign country’s court system.
As with most legal issues that arise in a divorce or the breakdown of a marriage, it is important to speak to a lawyer or other counselor to make sure that all of the appropriate issues are being addressed and that you are receiving the best advice possible.