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How Do I Get Service of Process if My Spouse is in Another Country?

In today’s world, technology has made it possible for individuals to communicate, work together, and have relationships all across the world.  When those relationships deteriorate, however, it is not uncommon for spouses to end up in different countries, which can make getting divorced more difficult, but not impossible.  One issue that may arise in an international divorce is your ability to properly and legally notify your spouse that you are seeking a divorce.  This is commonly referred to as Service of Process.

As long as you meet the residence requirements, you are entitled to file for divorce in Georgia.  This is the case even if your spouse lives in another country.  However, you cannot get divorced in the state of Georgia until you have completed service of process on your spouse.  The United States is a party to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents.  If your spouse lives in another country that is also a signatory to the Hague Convention, then you can use any means of service that is authorized by the Hague Convention.  If the country in which your spouse lives is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, then you can serve your spouse in any manner that is legally authorized by the laws of that country.  In more difficult cases, you may be able request assistance with service in the foreign country from its government through a letters rogatory procedure, or a letter of request.  The Shaw Law Firm has even received assistance from the CIA for service in communist countries in some cases.

It is also important to keep in mind that some different rules apply if your spouse who is living in a foreign country is also an American service member stationed or deployed in a foreign country.  For instance, there may be a Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and the foreign country that requires certain steps that must be taken before legal service can occur.  Likewise, the Service Members Civil Relief Act also establishes procedural requirements that you must follow in order to get divorced.  In some cases, a service member can even temporarily stop divorce proceedings if he or she cannot participate in proceedings due to the nature of his or her military service.

While serving a spouse in another country with divorce papers is not impossible, it can be an incredibly complicated and lengthy process.  Treaties, rules, and regulations often change, and you need an attorney who is familiar with Foreign Service issues and knows how to best handle them.  

Contact us or call today to learn how Shaw Law can work with you to achieve the best outcome possible for you and your children.

Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm LLC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.