{2:30 minutes to read} What happens when you’re getting divorced in a foreign country? (And remember — Canada is not the 51st state.) Whether you’re getting divorced in Ontario, El Salvador, or some other foreign country, you’ve got a problem when it comes to dividing up pensions.

The federal statute governing the division of pensions makes it very clear that only orders from a court in the United States are to be honored by a pension administrator. If you’ve been living outside the United States for many years but you have a pension from a company that you worked for while you lived in the US, or which is governed by a US administrator, you need to get an order signed by a judge in the United States.

There is a process called Domesticating a Foreign Divorce. It involves first getting divorced in a foreign country and then asking a court in the United States to “domesticate” the order. If both parties agree, this could be relatively simple.

But one problem immediately crops up that isn’t so obvious. What court do you use in the United States when you live outside the country?

Almost every American court has some ability to say that they don’t want to take a case from someone who lives outside of their jurisdiction, the result of which is an iffy process where you can’t be totally sure of which court to use. The only specific I can add to this is that the courts in New York County, which is the borough of Manhattan in New York City, have been more open to taking cases where neither party lives in Manhattan. With that in mind, there is the possibility of filing and getting the order signed in Manhattan.

This is not necessarily a simple or easy process, so I’d be happy to discuss the ins and outs directly with anyone who lives outside the US but has a pension in the US that needs to be divided pursuant to a divorce.

Steven L. Abel, Esq.
101 South Broadway
Nyack, NY 10960
(P) 845-638-4666
(E) [email protected]