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Dual citizenship issues facing Massachusetts residents in divorce

When making the difficult decision to obtain a divorce in Massachusetts, there are many factors to take into consideration. One potentially complex issue is the dual citizenship status of one or both parties. For example, an individual can hold dual citizenship if they are born in a foreign country to American parents. This person is then a citizen of the country of birth and the United States. People can also acquire foreign citizenship by marrying a citizen of another country, or becoming a citizen of the U.S. without losing citizenship in their native country.

In a divorce matter, the country where the couple resides generally has jurisdiction over the proceedings, even if you are a U.S. citizen. Many foreign countries do not give men and women the same legal rights, so this is something to seriously consider prior to initiating a divorce action. It can be important to research a foreign country's guidelines regarding alimony, property division, child custody and child support, among other issues of dispute, before deciding where to file. Another important fact to consider is the implications of parental relocation in a custody issue.

An additional consideration would be whether a divorce obtained in one country is legally binding in another. Many states in the U.S. will not recognize a divorce from a foreign country if both individuals were living in their home state at the time. Should there be any question of legality, a great resource would be the couple's home state Attorney General's office. In these situations, keeping all the documents obtained from a foreign divorce can help answer the question of validity.

Within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as with most other states in the U.S., an attorney specializing in family law can address diverse issues of divorce proceedings, including dual citizenship complexities as outlined here. There is no substitute like being well prepared and relying on the expertise of a legal professional when finalizing a binding decree affecting the rest of your life and financial future. Without the proper advice, there could be severe consequences down the road.

Source: Forbes, "Small World, Big Problem: Divorces Involving Dual Citizenship," Jeff Landers, Jan. 10, 2013

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