Family Law Questions? Ask a Family Lawyer Online.
Thank you for entrusting me with your question. Tell me a bit more about your situation. To start:
(1) where do you and your wife reside?
(2) why are you overseas?
We currently reside in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We moved to Hong Kong in January, 2003 for an opportunity with my company; we then moved to Singapore in 2005 and then to Vietnam in February, 2007. I am still with the same company.
My wife resumed working in September, 2011 after not working since the birth of our son in September, 2001.
Her "following" my career resulted in an expat lifestyle that included maids/nannies; drivers; etc., so it was not a hardship for her to "follow" me to Asia. Unfortunately, this lifestyle is also what lead her to be unfaithful for many years.
That would definitely move your marriage outside the jurisdiction of any of the 50 states or U.S. territories. Even if you were stationed overseas as U.S. military you could file in the United States but if you wanted the states to regain jurisdiction over the marriage, one of you would have to relocate back to the states.
Each state has its on residency requirements. Some states require extended residency (up to two years), but some states are minimal--Alaska, for example, only requires that you reside in Alaska at the time of filing (with no duration requirement).
With both of you living in Ho Chi Minh City in the private sector since 2007, no state or territory (and, as far as I know, no other country) will recognize jurisdiction over your marriage. You will need to divorce in Vietnam, or relocate.
I understand that you may have follow-up questions. Let me know if further clarification is needed, and please keep in mind that the experts are not credited for unaccepted answers; even where I cannot solve every problem in a case, my hope is that you can at least feel confident in your knowledge of your rights so you can get the best legal outcome under the circumstances, whatever that outcome may be. Thank you.
I have heard that the US protectorate of Guam may have similarly low residency requirements. Do you know anything about that and if an un-contested divorce settlement in Guam would be enforceable in the US?
Other than that, what do I do to effect a legal divorce because the legal system in Vietnam is not conducive for a legal divorce between two American citizens who eventually plan to move back to the US?
Guam requires that one of the spouses reside in the territory for 90 days prior to filing, so it is relatively unrestrictive, but still more restrictive than the Alaska example. A Guam effectuated in divorce would be recognized as valid anywhere in the United States.
If you have concluded that a divorce in Vietnam would not meet all of your needs, you have a choice to make--you can divorce there with an imperfect result, or you can wait until one of you returns to the United States. Your citizenship alone is not enough to give the U.S. jurisdiction over your marriage; one of you must live in the U.S. and meet the state/territory requirements, or you cannot divorce in the United States courts.
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