Because there are occasionally long waiting periods in other states and some
foreign countries - rarely an issue in Connecticut - parties occasionally
seek to obtain a divorce in a jurisdiction without a waiting period or a
residency requirement. Recently, long waiting periods have become a
particular issue in England.
In the United States, jurisdiction of a state court to grant a
divorce is based on domicile; unless one of the parties is actually domiciled
in the forum state, that state is powerless to grant a divorce. As noted below,
some states apply this principle to enforce a public policy that they alone,
and not any other state or foreign country, have the power to grant a divorce
with respect to their residents. Each state prescribes its own requirements for
the establishment of domicile in that state. In Connecticut and most other
states, one can establish domicile immediately by having a residence and an
intention to reside in the state permanently.
Most states have a waiting period. (In Connecticut, a divorce cannot
be granted unless one of the parties has resided in the state for at least one
year, and there is a "cooling off"
period of 90 days.) The shortest waiting period in the United States is
Nevada's, which is six weeks. Since domicile is a jurisdictional requirement,
the party seeking to establish jurisdiction must generally actually reside and
intend to reside permanently in the forum state.
Sometimes parties have a need to be divorced in a hurry. This situation
occurs most frequently when one of the parties desires to remarry immediately.
When both parties agree on a divorce and have established all of the relevant
terms of their parting by a separation agreement or
otherwise, it may make sense to consider a foreign forum where a divorce can be
obtained rapidly. As a general matter, a Dominican divorce should be sought
as a last resort only after the parties have exhausted opportunities to obtain
a timely dissolution of their marriage in the place where they are domiciled.
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History of Dominican Divorce
In 1971, the divorce law respecting foreigners in the Dominican Republic was
liberalized to attract the migratory divorce trade. See, Note, Caribbean
Divorce for Americans: Useful Alternative or Obsolescent Institution?, 10
CORNELL INT'L LAW J., 116 (1976). The liberalization coincided with the demise
of Mexico as a forum for "quickie" (frequently invalid mail-order)
divorces, as the Mexican government sought to placate religious groups within
and without the country.
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Requirements for a Dominican Divorce
A Dominican divorce is obtained by the appearance of one of the spouses in
person in court in Santo Domingo. The absent spouse appears by written
Special Power of Attorney and authorizes an attorney to appear for him and
to consent to a divorce. The entire process takes approximately an hour and can
be arranged on a few days' advance notice.
The person appearing in the Dominican Republic must have the following
Original or certified copy of marriage
Special Power of Attorney executed by the
non-appearing spouse before a Dominican consul
Birth certificates of children (or photocopies)
Passport, Social Security card or driver's
In order to obtain entry into the Dominican
Republic, American citizens must bring a passport or other proof of
citizenship; citizens of other countries should check with the Dominican
Embassy for entry requirements
A plane ticket home.
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Recognition of Dominican Divorces by Other Governments
As a general matter, Dominican divorces are looked upon with disfavor in the
United States. Where neither party was domiciled in the Dominican Republic
prior to the divorce, a U.S. court is not required to grant "comity"
- to give blind recognition to - the foreign decree. Substantially all
jurisdictions will prohibit the spouse who consented to the divorce from
attacking it later under a principle of fairness called "estoppel"; with both of the parties themselves consenting
to the divorce, there is no one left to attack it. It is therefore absolutely
essential that evidence of the consent of the non-appearing spouse be
maintained indefinitely, as important rights may turn on a reviewing court's
evaluation of that consent.
One of the few states to give recognition to bilateral Dominican divorces is
New York (Rosenstiel v. Rosenstiel,
16 N.Y.2d 64, 209 N.E.2d 709, 262 N.Y.S.2d 86 ). In New York, both
parties must participate in the divorce (i.e., there must be written
consent of the non-appearing spouse), and one party must physically travel and
appear in person before the court in the Dominican Republic.
Many other state courts which have faced the question of a foreign divorce
where both parties participate in the divorce proceedings but neither obtains
domicile there have followed the view that such a divorce is invalid.
Weber v. Weber, 200 Neb. 659, 265 N.W.2d 436 (1978); Everett v.
Everett, 345 So. 2d 586 (La. Ct. App. 1977); Kugler
v. Haitian Tours, Inc., 120 N.J. Super. 260, 293 A.2d 706 (1972); Estate
of Steffke v. Wisconsin Department of Revenue, 65
Wis.2d 199, 222 N.W.2d 628 (1974); Commonwealth v. Doughty, 187 Pa.
Super. 499, 144 A.2d 521 (1958); Bobala v. Bobala, 68 Ohio App. 63, 33 N.E.2d 845 (1940); Golden
v. Golden, 41 N.M. 356, 68 P.2d 928 (1937). In addition, this rule prevails
in six States - California, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South
Carolina, and Wisconsin - by virtue of the enactment by these legislatures of a
provision of the Uniform Divorce Recognition Act, 9A U.L.A. 461 (Supp. 1965),
which specifically denies recognition to a divorce decree obtained in another
jurisdiction when both spouses were domiciled in the home state. That a foreign
divorce when neither spouse obtained domicile will not be recognized by the
true domiciliary State, is also understood to be the law in England. Mountbatten
v. Mountbatten, 1 All Eng. Rep. 99 (1959).
Whether or not a Dominican divorce will be recognized in a foreign
jurisdiction (including the United States) will depend on the laws of the
foreign jurisdiction. Because these rights are valuable and important legal
rights, the services of a competent attorney must be sought. Under no
circumstances should a divorce be sought from a service offering "mail
order" or non-appearance divorces, which are invalid everywhere in the
If you are seriously
contemplating a divorce in a jurisdiction in which neither you nor your spouse
resides, it is strongly urged that you follow this link and read the
additional information carefully.
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