DIVORCE IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
By Jeremy D. Morley
It is possible to get a divorce in the Dominican Republic in a weekend. You can choose to go to court in the capital city of Santo Domingo or to a resort town. But besides having an enjoyable vacation, and procuring a paper bearing the word "divorce," what else do you accomplish by divorcing Dominican style?
The answer is: It all depends. It depends on a host of factors, the most important of which is usually the factor of your own residency or domicile.
As far as some jurisdictions are concerned, a Dominican divorce will be recognized, as long as both parties participated in the process.
However, most U.S. states will not recognize the typical Dominican divorce whereby one party signs a power of attorney while the other party travels to the Dominican Republic, makes a personal appearance in court and receives a divorce decree on the spot or by mail a week or so later.
Nonetheless, even in the latter kind of case, the fact that both parties have participated in the Dominican divorce process will in most cases prevent both of the spouses from subsequently making the allegation that the divorce was invalid.
While we sometimes recommend a Dominican divorce, in many cases we do not. We have been retained on several occasions to help clients untangle themselves from situations in which Dominican divorces have led to entirely unforeseen adverse consequences.
The bottom line: Get legal advice before getting a Dominican divorce. The advice should not come from an online Dominican agency, any kind of agency that promotes Dominican or Guam divorces or from a Dominican lawyer. You need advice from a lawyer in your home state or country who understands the issues and is experienced in handling them.
The following has been published by the Government of the Dominican Republic:
"Legal Requirements for U. S. Citizens to Obtain Valid Divorces in the Dominican Republic
Recently, a number of U. S. citizens have inquired about the process by which they can obtain a valid divorce in the Dominican Republic. A special divorce law for nonresident foreigner (passed in 1971) provides that the only permissible grounds for divorce of non-resident foreigners is mutual consent. This means that if a husband and wife who do not reside in the Dominican Republic want to obtain a valid divorce under Dominican law, both spouses must agree that they want to obtain such a divorce.
The special divorce law also establishes four requirements to obtain such a divorce:
- One of the spouses who wish to be divorced must make a personal appearance in court in the Dominican Republic. The special divorce law does not require the person seeking a divorce to reside in the Dominican Republic for any length of time. Therefore, the spouse making the personal appearance in the Dominican court could arrive one day and depart the next day, after meeting all other legal requirements.
- The divorcing spouses must enter into a separation agreement with respect to the division of their common property, custody over their children (if any), and alimony and support payments. The spouses should have such an agreement drafted by an attorney who practices law in the jurisdiction of the domicile of the marriage.
- If one of the divorcing spouses does not appear in the Dominican Republic, he or she must execute a power of attorney in the presence of a Notary Public or a Dominican Consul. (A list of the locations of Dominican Consuls in the United States is attached). This power of attorney provides evidence to the Dominican court that the non-appearing spouses accept the jurisdiction of that court.
- The spouse who appears in the Dominican Republic to obtain the divorce must provide not only the separation agreement and the power of attorney but (copies of?) the birth certificates of all minor children born in the marriage and a certified copy of the marriage certificate. Once the spouse makes the necessary appearance in the Dominican Republic, it will take between one and four weeks, depending on the courts workload, for the divorce judgment to be handed down and registered.
Note: The Embassy of the Dominican Republic understands that a number of web sites on the Internet assert that U. S. citizens can obtain divorces in the Dominican Republic without either of the spouses having to appear in the Dominican Republic before a Dominican court and without mutual consent. This information is completely incorrect and directly contrary to Dominican law. If someone has paid any money to obtain a divorce in the Dominican Republic, but has not complied with the requirements listed above, that divorce is invalid and will not be recognized as valid by courts in the Dominican Republic or in the United States."