Thu | Jun 24, 2021

Immigration Corner: Did my US-based wife divorce me?

Published:Monday | July 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I am married to a Jamaican woman who migrated to the United States (US) about eight years ago. During that period, she met a US citizen and married him. My concern as her husband is that I have not received any documents to approve the divorce, and after four years, I have still not received any such document for signing.

I have asked her to send the document(s) so that I can be divorced legally in Jamaica. However, I am yet to get a reply from her. I am now in a new relationship and want to be legally divorced before moving ahead with my new partner.

- CA


Dear CA,

It is quite possible that your wife divorced you without your signature. She may have told the court in the state and county in which she resided in America at the time of the divorce that she did not know where you were and obtained a 'divorce by publication'.

Many persons who come to the US and are already married but want to make a new life for themselves in America obtain a divorce without telling their spouses in their home countries. Although some of them know where their spouses are, they tell the court otherwise. Some believe that they need their spouse's permission to be divorced and fear that the spouse will refuse to sign the document and prevent the divorce. In the US, if a spouse served with a divorce does not answer the initial documents or respond on time, the filing spouse can obtain a divorce by default. The process might take longer if the foreign spouse is served with divorce documents, but the deception is not necessary.

Without knowing the specifics of your situation, I cannot say what your wife did to obtain a divorce in the US. Since she is remarried, we have to assume that she divorced you without you being served with the divorce filing and you signing any documents. If she didn't divorce you and she remarried and obtained immigration benefits, she not only committed bigamy, she also committed immigration fraud.

You can find out if you are divorced in America by contacting a US-based lawyer and providing any known address for your wife. If you are, in fact, divorced, it would be up to you to go back and contest the factual basis for her obtaining the divorce if you were not served. That will depend on what was in the actual documents filed. If you do not wish to contest any of the filings, then the lawyer will be able to obtain a certified copy of the final judgement that shows you are divorced. Once you have the final judgement of divorce, you would not need to be divorced again in Jamaica as that final judgement would be acceptable proof of your divorce.

• Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida; and an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College's School of Justice.