Treatment of Foreign Marriages in Illinois

The courts frequently comes across cases where the couple marries outside of the United States. Foreign-country marriages often do not resemble marriages conducted in the U.S. The licensing and procedures, or lack thereof, vary widely.

When these couples married in foreign countries move to Illinois and then later want to divorce, some common questions may be: does Illinois even recognize the validity of the foreign marriage? Consequently, can we even get divorced in Illinois?

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, Section 409 provides that “foreign marriages solemnized or had in any foreign state or country may be proved by the acknowledgment of the parties, their cohabitation, and any other circumstantial testimony of the parties.” See 750 ILCS  5/409. In short, Illinois will typically recognize the validity of the marriage. As a general rule, when the marriage is valid in the country (or state) it will be valid in Illinois.

Whether the Illinois court can proceed with the divorce will depend on other factors including whether the court has jurisdiction, or the authority to issue orders, related to the parties. Jurisdiction is established based on how long the parties have lived in Illinois and other factors that should be thoroughly discussed with counsel.

Persons married in another country, however, need not feel trapped when wanting to seek a divorce. It is likely not necessary to return to the country or state in which the country was solemnized

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