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How do I respond to the summons if I live in another country?

October 4, 2017

When spouses live in different locations, the question of how to file for a divorce becomes complicated. If the other side has filed for divorce in another country, you may wonder how you should respond. There are ways that you can file a response and participate in the divorce regardless of where you live. There are also some special things that you need to know.

Responding to the summons

If you live in another country, you may respond to the complaint just like you would if you lived in the same country. You may prepare a response and file it with the court. In most cases, you can do this by mailing an answer to the appropriate court and sending a copy to the other party or their attorney. Of course, if you’re sending international mail, you’ll want to pay extra attention to deadlines and safeguards to make sure that your reply makes it to the court on time. In addition, some courts may allow you to file a response online. In some cases, online filing is only available to attorneys, so it may or may not be an option for you.

You can also work with an attorney to file a reply on your behalf. You can contact an attorney that practices in the jurisdiction where your spouse has filed for divorce. When you hire an attorney to represent you, they file an appearance on your behalf. This is a statement to the court and to the other party that they represent you and your best interests in court. Filing an appearance also allows them to file a response to the summons and complaint.

Challenging jurisdiction

Before you reply to the summons, you may want to evaluate whether there are jurisdictional issues in your case. The United States is a part of the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. That’s an international agreement that controls which country should decide child custody issues in a divorce.

The question is determining the child’s home state, or where they intend to permanently remain. This may or may not be the place where the children are currently located. Determining the child’s home country also depends in part on the consent of both parents. The law doesn’t allow one parent to essentially sneak the children off to another country and then file for divorce there.

Even if it’s not a child custody issue, there are jurisdictional questions that you’ll want to answer. Most states or countries have residence requirements before you can file for divorce in the state. In the United States, the filing requirements vary from state to state. It’s important to make sure that your spouse qualifies to file for divorce in the country, because it could delay the proceedings if the court later realizes they don’t meet the residency requirements.

There may be property issues

If your spouse files for divorce in a different country, there’s a good chance that you might have property that’s located in multiple countries. There may be special things that you need to consider in order to divide assets in a way that both countries will recognize. An experienced attorney can help you address the jurisdictional and other challenges that may arise when spouses live in two different countries during a divorce. They can help you protect your rights and properly assert them in the appropriate forum.

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