International Divorce in the Caribbean

You have probably heard of people going to the Caribbean to get married. But did she know that she too can get a legal divorce in a foreign country, no matter where she is at the moment?

a marriage bond is a Latin term that literally means “from the chains of marriage”. It has come to mean a full and final divorce, rather than a legal separation. With up to half of all marriages in the Western world ending in divorce, almost all of us find ourselves at some point dealing with our own divorce or that divorce. from a close family member or friend. Divorce is often a tragedy for everyone involved, but it can also be an opportunity for positive change and a fresh start. A quick, amicable, affordable and legally valid divorce decree from a foreign country may well be ‘just what the doctor ordered’.

The idea of ​​foreign divorces is relatively new to most people in the Western world. When it comes to divorce, it has always been a matter of “Do what you are told” by a local lawyer, whose main objective is to drag out the process as long as possible to extract the greatest possible benefit from you. Fee!

In many US jurisdictions, you must wait 30-90 days or even up to two years. This is even if both parties approach the divorce by mutual consent, without any fuss or fanfare, and that too is after all the financial stuff!

Elsewhere, things are even worse. In Ireland you have to wait four years minimum. In the Philippines, you can simply never get a divorce!

The origins of “quick” divorces

Mexico can be credited with inventing the “quickie” foreign divorce business. The jet-set of the 1950s and 1960s frequently traveled to Acapulco to obtain quick divorces. Subsequently, Tabasco, the smallest state in Mexico, made a brief foray into the offshore divorce business.

However, all of that is ancient history. Amendments to the Mexican Nationality and Naturalization Law that went into effect in March 1971 require that a foreigner be a legal resident of Mexico before he can file for a Mexican divorce. Becoming a legal resident is a rather complicated and time-consuming process that takes several months. Due to these restrictions, few foreigners will find it practical to attempt a Mexican divorce.

Incredibly, even though speedy divorces in Mexico stopped in the 1970s, we have found people as early as 2006 still offering them for sale online. This is a scam that would-be divorcees should be warned about.

Quick Divorces on Hispaniola Island

Today, the fastest divorces in the Western Hemisphere are just a short flight from Miami, Florida, on the island of Hispaniola, right next to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

In 1971, just months after religious interests caused the Mexican Congress to bash the Mexican “quick divorce” business that had become popular during the 1960s over the head, an enterprising Mexican lawyer persuaded lawmakers to Dominican Republic to pass Law #142. allowing instant divorces for non-residents by steam. Not to be outdone, in 1974 the Republic of Haiti (the Dominican Republic’s smaller neighbor on the island of Hispaniola) passed similar laws, which are in fact even more ‘user friendly’.

This type of divorce is popularly known as the ‘VIP Divorce’, because over the years numerous celebrities and thousands of other famous people have taken advantage of these liberal divorce laws. To name a few, in no particular order: Elizabeth Taylor, Mia Farrow, George Scott, Mike Tyson, Robin Givens, Richard Burton, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, Diana Ross, Jane Fonda, Mariah Carey, Marc Anthony, and Tommy Mottola (former president of Sony Records).

Yes, these people sure have money. But divorces in the Caribbean do not have to cost as much as you might expect! They are becoming increasingly popular with ordinary citizens, and especially with families of global citizens, who may well have roots in more than one jurisdiction.

 Dominican Republic v Haiti

Today, despite its ups and downs, the Dominican Republic is a thriving economy and a pleasant country to visit, with a highly developed tourism sector. Therefore, it is preferable to get a divorce in the Dominican Republic when possible. Haiti, by contrast, is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and far less stable, though of course that doesn’t make its laws any less valid.

The big difference between the two is that in the Dominican Republic mutual consent is required. The respondent spouse does not have to travel there, but will be required to appear in person to sign the documents agreeing to the divorce at a Dominican consulate elsewhere in the world.

In Haiti, however, unilateral divorce is allowed. This is useful when spousal consent cannot be obtained for whatever reason, but a divorce is required to remarry, for business purposes, or just to start over. The process requires public notices in Haiti informing the spouse of the impending action, after which a default judgment is issued granting a divorce if no response is received within twenty-one days.


Recognition by other jurisdictions

As you may have already guessed, the big question on most people’s minds is whether this type of foreign divorce will be legally recognized in their home countries or wherever else they need it to be recognized.

Unfortunately, this is also one of the most difficult questions to answer. But in a nutshell, the answer is generally positive! This is why…

First of all, offshore divorce is perfectly legal. No doubt about that. There is no law that we know of anywhere in the world that prohibits people from going to another country and getting divorced.

Whether it is accepted where you live depends in practice on whether someone questions it. It is a fact that worldwide, more than 99.9% of divorces are never contested. The only person likely to contest the divorce would be her spouse. Most people get their spouse’s written consent, and then the spouse can’t dispute it later because of estoppel. Estoppel is defined in my law dictionary as a prohibition to allege or deny a fact due to one’s own actions or previous contrary words.

In the US, courts in many states (for example, New York) specifically accept international divorces. Courts in most others accept them on a case-by-case basis on a comity basis. The Social Security Administration and the Veterans Administration are other departments that specifically accept and recognize international divorces. The Department of State authorizes and requires US consulates abroad to legalize foreign divorce decrees by giving “full faith and credit” to foreign court signatures. Such legalizations are routinely issued by US embassies in the case of Caribbean divorces.

It should be noted, however, that some US states (most significantly California among them) do not specifically recognize foreign divorces. (That even includes Nevada divorces.) Of course, this law was passed in the public interest and has nothing to do with greedy California lawyers who want all the action for themselves.

In England and Wales, the recognition of a divorce abroad is governed by Part II of the Family Law Act 1986. Section 51(c) of that Act allows English courts to refuse to recognize a divorce abroad. the foreigner as valid if such recognition is manifestly contrary to public order.’ Courts also have the discretion to deny recognition if the divorce was obtained without notice to the other party, which could apply to Haitian divorces.

A quick review shows that this English law has never been tested in court. Thus, although it appears that the English courts have some discretion in refusing to recognize foreign divorces, we can also see that in twenty years none of the thousands of British citizens who have obtained Caribbean divorces have had any legal problems in England because of it. . I stay with my case!


Hispaniola courts provide, in many cases, an excellent opportunity to break free from the shackles of marriage, avoiding the tortuously slow divorce proceedings in other countries that can be both financially and emotionally draining. In fact, a few days can mean a new beginning in life. However, this article was intended only as a brief introduction to a complex topic. It is very important that you obtain proper professional advice and read up on this subject before taking any action that may have unintended legal consequences.

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