Conflict of divorce laws

In modern society, the role of marriage and its termination through divorce have become political issues. As people live increasingly mobile lives, the conflict of laws and its choice of law rules are highly relevant to determine:

  • the circumstances in which people may obtain divorces in states in which they have no permanent or habitual residence; and
  • when one state will recognize and enforce a divorce granted in another state

The problems

Sometimes, people get married who have nationalities or domiciles. This can produce serious problems for the parties and for the court systems which are expected to accept jurisdiction over persons sometimes only transiently within their territorial boundaries, and to enforce the judgments and orders of foreign courts. These more technical problems can be made worse by any personal animosity between the parties which contributed to the marital breakdown. In some more extreme cases, spouses move themselves and/or their assets to other jurisdictions to evade their obligations or liabilities, or they move to establish personal jurisdiction so that they can engage in forum shopping. Hence, suppose a German man marries a Turkish woman and they live in Poland until the breakdown, at which point the wife goes to Nevada because she has heard that the courts of the U.S. allow quick divorces and give generous maintenance and property settlement awards. When he hears of this plan, the husband moves himself and all his assets to Ireland because he has heard that Irish courts do not recognise and enforce U.S. divorce decrees and their ancillary orders.