A international divorce usually involves spouses who perhaps have filed for divorce in a foreign jurisdiction, where the waiting period is much longer than Texas, or perhaps that jurisdiction only grants a divorce based on fault, and this would be grounds to be awarded a disproportionate share of the of the marital assets. Children of the marriage would also be a concern. Texas has long held that a “status divorce” may be granted by Texas courts even if the non-resident spouse does not reside nor has never been in Texas. Thus, the starting point is going to be Section 6.305 of the Texas Family Code.
It may be that no property or children are located in Texas. I am familiar with certain foreign jurisdictions where the woman can loose her dowry if she files the divorce, unless she shows that husband has somehow abused her. You may have property in a foreign country but Texas cannot enforce a judgment outside of Texas. I have had judgments from Harris county courts awarding property property in a foreign jurisdiction that you would need to take to that jurisdiction to determine if they recognize the decree for the property transfer.
Sometimes, I have men who want to file in Harris county, Texas and attempt to get status divorce, to take back to a foreign jurisdiction where another divorce is pending, because it causes the wife’s claims to loose steam, or perhaps it can cause issues with immigration in the one of the jurisdictions. Thus if you get status divorce in Texas, and you certify this status to a foreign jurisdiction who recognizes and domesticates the judgment, then many times support issues can no longer be litigated in the foreign jurisdiction. This is the argument that is made, but the intent behind allowing people to get a status divorce has always been to sever the other claims to take them up in a foreign jurisdiction.
First and foremost, you must look at where the child has lived for the last six months. If the child has not lived in Texas at all, you will not be able to address any of the children issues, but the court can order that the spouse in Texas, who may not have custody of the child, to pay child support. What is more common is that you have a foreign order that determines custody and neither parent resides in the jurisdiction anymore. Both have moved to the United States, but may not both live in Texas. Where the child is staying has become an issue, and now court involvement is necessary. What you would need is to file a certified copy of the foreign judgment with a translation, then serve it out to the parent or other family member who could may have possession of the child. Harris County will issue a cause number and then you can attempt to get some Texas orders for visitation, rights and duties, also child support.
This is a doctrine of judicial economy, when this is a case pending in another jurisdiction and the case is being prosecuted, then you attempt to dismiss or abate another case that was filed 2nd. Normally in defending or prosecuting a 2nd filed case, you would ask for dismissal of the 2nd filed case or ask that it be abated until the 1st filed case has come to conclusion. The policy would be to avoid having to try the case twice. This doctrine always becomes an issue in a international divorce or family law matter. Be prepared to discuss status of the foreign divorce when involved in a International Divorce and Family law matter in Harris County Texas and the doctrine of comity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Busby Jr. is a divorce & family law attorney, who practices in Harris and Fort Bend Counties, Texas. He has been in practice for over 14 years and has tried over 300 cases. He is familiar with the policy and procedures of the Harris and Fort Bend County Texas family law courts. Our office is open until 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for working folks. Michael Busby Jr. 2909 Hillcroft Suite 350 Houston, Texas 77057 (713) 974-1151 Visit me on the web at www.busby-lee.com