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Guam: Family Law

DIVORCE IN GUAM: Beware!

 

There is great doubt as to whether Guam divorces where neither party resides in Guam are worth the paper they are written on. 

Companies “selling” Guam divorces claim that they are enforceable and will be recognized in American states and other countries -- even though the divorces are based on the complete fiction that the parties themselves claim to be “domiciled” in a place with which they generally have no connection. 

Now the Guam legislature has corrected some of the abuse. 

The requirement is that one spouse spends a week’s vacation in Guam before getting divorced. 

Will this solve the problem? We tend to doubt it. A weeks’s vacation in a place hardly equates to being resident or domiciled there. 

Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

 


 

GUAM NO LONGER A DIVORCE MILL

By Steve Limtiaco

 

The number of divorces on Guam is expected to drop dramatically this year, not because couples are trying harder to make their marriages work, but because it is now more difficult for non-residents to end their marriage using the local court system.

Until this month, non-resident couples could get an uncontested divorce in the Superior Court of Guam without ever setting foot on island. It was that way for two decades.

But attorney Don Parkinson, former speaker of the Guam Legislature, said he stopped the lucrative practice of handling quickie divorces because the divorces were being challenged by U.S. immigration on the issue of whether or not the couples are bona fide residents of Guam.

"I quit doing them because I got sick of people writing me, upset that their divorces weren't being accepted by immigration. This is a big problem," Parkinson said. "It was clear to me that based on the position immigration was taking, (giving couples a Guam divorce) was taking money from most of my customers on false pretenses, and I don't do that. That's why I stopped."

From now on, anyone who wants to get divorced on Guam will actually have to set foot on the island and stay a few days before it can happen, lawmakers said yesterday.

The Legislature went into session yesterday, where they discussed several bills, including a bill by Sen. Benjamin Cruz , D-Piti, that would make it more difficult for nonresidents to get divorced here.

The way the current law is written, you must live on Guam for at least 90 days before you can get a divorce here, but that residency requirement is not enforced if it is an uncontested divorce.

Several local attorneys have opposed any changes to the law, saying the island provides a needed service to members of the military and others who have a hard time getting a divorce because they move frequently and do not meet residency requirements.

It also brings additional revenue to the island, some have argued.

Cruz yesterday said lawmakers must make a choice -- allow Guam to continue as the "divorce mill" of the Pacific or close the loophole that allows for nonresident divorces. If it is to continue, then requiring the people getting divorced to stay on Guam for a while would benefit other sectors of the economy as well, aside from the law firms, he said.

Senator Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan, said she believes the current practice is driven by greed.

"I surely don't want Guam to be known as a divorce haven," she said. "We're only thinking of today, what can we put in our pockets today."

But other lawmakers said they see no problem with the current law.

Sen. Adolpho Palacios, D-Ordot, said the current divorce law provides a "reasonable accommodation" to service members.

"I don't see the detriment to the our island. I don't see that this causes any harm," said Sen. Ray Tenorio, R-Yigo.

He noted that lawmakers in the last Legislature supported using Guam as a mediation center for nonresidents, so it is inconsistent to try to prevent the island from being used as a place for nonresidents to get divorced.

While Cruz's bill would have enforced a 90-day residency requirement for divorces, lawmakers yesterday arrived at a compromise, reducing the residency requirement to only seven days and requiring at least one spouse of the divorcing couple to be on Guam during that time before divorce papers can be filed.

If the bill is approved during session and signed into law, the changes will take effect Jan. 1, which Tenorio said will allow enough time for current divorce cases to be completed.

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