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Will a Foreign Divorce be Recognized as a Valid Divorce in the State of Maryland

Over the years we have had many clients ask if a divorce that they obtained in foreign country will be recognized here in Maryland. The answer is yes the divorce will be recognized in the united States, so long as the divorce was obtained by a Court that had authority to do so and the divorce was granted legally. In the Maryland case of Wolff v. Wolff, 40 Md.App. 168, 389 A.2d 413 (1978) the Maryland Court of Special Appeals determined that an English divorce decree was recognized in Maryland based on comity. The principle of comity allows judgments of courts in foreign countries to be recognized in the United States. The court stated that “… a decree of divorce granted in one country by a court having jurisdiction to do so will be given full force and effect in another country by comity, not only as a decree determining status, but also with respect to an award of alimony and child support.” However, there are some limitations to this doctrine. A foreign divorce will not be recognized where: the divorce was obtained by a procedure which denies due process of law; the divorce was obtained by fraud; the divorce offends the public policy of the state in which recognition is sought (examples of divorces that offend public policy include “mail-order divorces” obtained by nonresidents and laws that allow a husband, but not a wife, to divorce without any sort of judicial process); and where the foreign court lacked jurisdiction. For other questions about jurisdiction see our October 21, 2009 blog.

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