LAWLINK – What can I do to make sure a foreign divorce cert is recognised here?

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Q: I spent some time working abroad in Asia in my 20s. While there I met and married lady who was also an ex-pat. Unfortunately the relationship didn’t last and we decided to separate. We both separately moved away from that country but remained in contact and decided to get a divorce. My ex obtained a divorce in the county that we met and I signed all the paperwork that I needed to. I have recently met another woman and we are settling down to start a family in Limerick. I am worried that my foreign divorce cert will not be recognised. What can I do?

Dear Reader,

Issues like this can be contentious and complicated. The first thing to do is to ensure that you have all relevant paperwork, including your marriage certificate and divorce certificate, together with copies of whatever paperwork you may have signed, and make an appointment with your solicitor.

The next step would be to ensure that your initial marriage is one that is recognised in Ireland. A foreign marriage will only be recognized in Ireland if it was entered on the civil registry of the marriage where it took place, and all the relevant legal formalities of that county have been followed. It is sometimes the case that a ‘customary’ marriage ceremony occurred, which is not intended to be legally binding. Obviously, this is something you will need to discuss with your solicitor.

If you were party to a valid marriage ceremony, you must examine whether your divorce is valid in Ireland. At present, a foreign divorce is recognided in Ireland in circumstances only where one or either of the spouse was “domiciled” in the county from which the divorce was granted.

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Domicile is a legal concept but can be thought of as ones ‘home’ country. It is not necessarily where one person is from or where one person currently lives, but rather where they intend to stay. From what you say, given that you both lived in the country only temporarily, it is unlikely that either you or your ex-wife could be classed as being “domiciled” in the county from which the divorce was obtained.

Therefore, while the divorce would have the full effect of law in the country in which you obtained it, it is unlikely that it is capable of being recognised in Ireland.

If there is doubt, you can apply to the Circuit Court to obtain a certificate confirming that your divorce is valid. This would need input from lawyers in the county where you were divorced. However, based on what you have set out above, it may well be quicker to simply try and obtain a fresh Irish divorce, especially if having clarity would also assist your ex-wife.

You should consult with your solicitor at once.