Can Illinois Enforce My Foreign Divorce Decree?

Nowadays people do not often stay in one state for the duration of their lives. They often go away to school or accept job offers in other states. For these reasons, the Full Faith and Credit Act allows states to enforce judgments entered in other states. Thus, a couple does not have to divorce in the state in which they got married.


But what about marriages or divorce decrees entered in another country? Although the Full Faith and Credit Act does not automatically apply to foreign judgments, Illinois may, based on comity, public policy or other reasons, give full faith and credit to foreign decrees. Janssen v. Janssen, 269 Ill.App. 233, 242 (1933). So how does the Illinois court determine if it should enforce the foreign decree? Recognition of a foreign judgment may be withheld where (1) it is contrary to the public policy of the state where the recognition is sought, (2) the country in which the decree was rendered does not recognize American decrees, or (3) the judgment was obtained in bad faith, by fraud or by taking advantage of the foreign law. Hager v. Hager, 1 Ill.App.3d 1047, 1051, 274 N.E.2d 157 (1971).


In In re the Marriage of Murugesh v. Kasilingam, 993 N.E.2d 1109 (2013), the Respondent had filed a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in India that was pending at the time that the Petitioner filed her Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Illinois. The Court denied the Respondent’s Motion to Dismiss the Illinois Petition, thus not enforcing the divorce proceeding in India. The Court reasoned that both parties were residents of Illinois and the marital home and businesses were in Illinois. Furthermore, the India action was filed under the Hindu Marriage Act, and the allegations of adultery against the wife could have subject the wife to criminal charges in India. Finally, India would not recognize an Illinois decree, and thus Illinois did not have to extend reciprocity.


As a result, whether Illinois will enforce a foreign divorce proceeding or divorce decree will depend entirely on the facts, how the divorce was obtained, and the country in which the divorce was obtained.

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