Shereen Arthur, Esquire, an attorney in our Philadelphia office and a new contributor to our blog, writes:
Destination weddings have become popular over the years because they can be cheaper and less stressful than a traditional wedding. Can the same be said for a divorce? The concept of the “quickie” divorce is not a new one, but can a spouse seek a “destination divorce” as a way to avoid Pennsylvania’s residency requirements for a no-fault divorce?
To file for divorce in Pennsylvania, one of the parties to the action must be a resident of Pennsylvania for at least six months prior to the date of filing. That six month residency requirement becomes an issue for those who have lived outside of Pennsylvania since their date of marriage and who are looking to divorce as soon as possible. In other words, the parties are searching for a divorce destination without the multiple month residency requirement. People have asked, “Are there any places to file for divorce that have a shorter residency requirement?” Let’s explore destination Guam!
Guam is a United States Territory that permits both non-residents and non-U.S. citizens to obtain a no-fault divorce provided that (1) the divorce is uncontested and (2) one spouse resides on Guam for a minimum of seven (7) days. See 19 G.C.A. § 8318(b) (2008). It is not clear, however, what it takes to satisfy Guam’s seven day residency requirement.
But as simple as that may seem, your destination divorce does not stop with the entry of a divorce decree in a foreign jurisdiction. A foreign jurisdiction refers to any jurisdiction outside of the place of marriage. The question becomes whether Pennsylvania (the place of marriage) will recognize or give full faith and credit to the foreign divorce decree. For Pennsylvania to recognize a Guam divorce decree, the parties must establish (1) that both parties were afforded due process and (2) domiciliary intent.
First, due process requires that the non-filing party have notice of the divorce proceedings and an opportunity to be heard. See Keating v. Keating, 855 A.2d 80, 84 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2004). Second, the filing party must not only have resided in Guam for the requisite seven days but must show that Guam was his/her bona fide domicile –“domiciliary intent.” See Sargeant v. Sargeant, 307 A.2d 353, 356 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1973) (citations omitted). A Pennsylvania Court will evaluate all of the surrounding circumstances to determine domiciliary intent, including, but not limited to, a parties’ place of employment, where the driver’s license was issued, voter registration, and vehicle registration.
Before you take what may seem to be a quick and easy road to your destination divorce, be certain that Pennsylvania will recognize your “foreign” divorce.