Antipodes are points on our merry ol’ globe that are exactly opposite from each other. If your wife leaves Virginia and moves to its antipode, she is probably on a raft in the southern Indian ocean, according to (you can find anything on the internet) Antipodes Map.com. So can you still divorce her?
Your wife’s departure for her homeland, city of refuge or whatever you want to call her destination does not put her beyond the reach of Virginia divorce law. You can still divorce her, even without knowing her foreign address. If you meet the requirements for residency in Virginia (living six months within the state), you can file for divorce in Virginia courts.
Your attorney will need to lay some groundwork, including steps like these:
- Contacting the U.S. embassy of the country in which she currently resides
- Working with an international divorce attorney to comply with her country’s divorce requirements
- Translating legal papers into the language of her current country of residence
- Having your attorney request that she waive service of process, which saves you the time of attempting to serve legal papers to her in the country she is currently living in; or
- Serving her papers, using either an international process server or by publishing an announcement in publications within her country
Mapping Her Intentions … Across the Map
To be realistic, your wife’s decision to leave the country telegraphs her intention to not fight any suit for divorce. Her legal battle against you would inconvenience her as much as you, and probably be difficult for her to afford. Knowing this, you may realistically proceed, with your attorney’s guidance, on the typical Virginia timeline for filing the petition, by waiting the required six months (without children) or year (with children), and then petitioning the court.
Other steps, realistically, would include contacting an embassy or consulate of the country in which she now resides, to determine that country’s exact divorce procedures. If you do not have to complete certain steps internationally, your divorce could be greatly simplified.
Out-of-country Service of Process
If you have a known address for her and the country where she resides permits service of process by mail, send the papers to her with a return receipt requested. Be careful (which is why you should check with that country’s embassy), since many countries do not permit service by mail.
If you have no known address for your wife in, say, the Wallis and Futuna Islands, you can wait out your wife. You must demonstrate to a Virginia Circuit Court judge that you made a reasonable attempt to locate her (doing more than using the antipodes map, though it is a lot of fun), after which you may attempt to publish notice of the divorce in her home country newspapers.
This may not be cheap and may be considered too unreliable by a Virginia judge to replace process service. Then again, if you can show you tried the fifteen two largest papers of the Maldives, the judge may feel you did all you could. The divorce can proceed with your wife in absentia.
An alternative is to have papers sent to her last known U.S. address, such as her parents’ American home. You may need to get a judge’s permission to skip the publication step, if you can demonstrate that a one-eighth-page ad in the Miadhu News (a leading newspaper of the Maldives!) is beyond your budget.
It’s Not Easy but It’s Doable
Except for just a few problems:
- time zones
- exchange rates
- international divorce attorneys
- postal regulations
… a Virginia divorce from a woman living abroad is really no different from a regular Virginia divorce.
Okay, looking at that list, perhaps it is a bit different. The main issue will be the time needed for every protracted step to be completed to the court’s satisfaction. If you and your attorney do not become overly assertive (or aggressive!) and demonstrate to the Virginia Circuit Court judge that you are trying in good faith to do everything according to Virginia and international law, you may be given wide latitude in proceeding.
Your wife’s behavior could be interpreted (by your attorney) to indicate she is not committed to the marriage. Be careful, though; she could return during the proceedings to make accusations against you of spousal abuse, mental cruelty, or other defenses.
This is why you and your attorney should never seek to cast her in a harshly negative light. She is not present to defend herself, to rebut your accusations, or to contest the divorce. Her absence is not definitive proof of her indifference.
An international divorce is not easy, but it is doable with the right Virginia family law attorney by your side.
Call The Family Law Attorneys for Men
You do not need to know your wife’s foreign address to find our address at The Firm For Men. Stop by our offices, call us on the telephone at 757-383-9184, or contact us online and let us get you scheduled for a consultation in our office. We may not be able to explain the International Date Line or the international space station to you, but we can help with your international divorce.