Divorce in different jurisdictions can be extremely complicated, with some states using community property systems and some using equitable distribution, some states award a lot of alimony, and some states award very little. Even within the United States, the state-based function of family law can lead to very different outcomes depending on where the complaint is filed. Accordingly, jurisdiction in divorce cases can be a contested issue when a divorce could potentially be filed in multiple counties or states.
This is even more true when talking internationally. With every country utilizing a different system of laws, and an increasingly interconnected world, there are greater numbers of couples who are from different countries, and possibly even living in a third country. This problem is particularly prevalent in the European Union, where the system of open borders and the ability to travel far away for work can lead to many marriages with spouses in different countries than where they initially married. This led to difficulty with divorce law, because each country has distinct family laws that could conflict.
The European Union attempted to rectify this situation with the passage of the Rome III Convention to set down common rules for where multinational couples in the EU may divorce, and which laws should be applied. It was unable to receive sufficient support to be binding across the entire European Union, however several countries agreed that it was important and moved forward with the enhanced cooperation (meaning that it fell short of full acceptance from all member countries) "European Union Divorce Law Pact," also known as the Rome III Regulation. The Rome III Regulation took effect in 14 countries on June 21, 2012, and in 2014 will expand to Lithuania, which was the first state to request to join the enhanced cooperation after its ratification in the original 14 countries.
The enhanced cooperation establishes a ranking if criteria for choice of law in any divorce. If one criterion does not apply then the next one comes into play. They are as follows: 1) the choice of the couple (between either of their nationalities, their previous place of residence, or their current place of residence); 2) the place of residence; 3) their last place of residence (within one year, and one of the spouses should still reside there); 4) their nationality; and 5) the law of the jurisdiction where the action was brought. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, the courts will apply the law of whichever jurisdiction has the greatest interest in the case.
Jurisdiction, whether national or international, can be extremely complex, and can play a very important role in creating your divorce strategy. Contact our experienced Pittsburgh divorce attorneys today to discuss your case!