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The Reality Regarding Divorce In The Dominican Republic


Before seeking a divorce in the Dominican Republic, U.S. citizens should be aware of possible legal restrictions by their state of residence on divorces obtained abroad. It is advisable to contact an attorney of your state of residence to determine whether or not the courts of your state will recognize a Dominican Republic divorce as valid. The Dominican Embassy in the US states that only Mutual Consent Divorces are possible, but the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic explains that there are two types of divorces, Incompatibility or Mutual Consent. Whether a Dominican Divorce is by Mutual Consent or Incompatibility, the processing is the same for such a divorce to be legal.

In order to be recognized in the U.S., the divorce decree must be "authenticated" by a U.S. Embassy consular officer. This authentication states only that the signature on the decree matches the signature of a Dominican official on record with the U.S. Embassy as an official competent and empowered to sign such a decree.

There are two types of divorces available to foreigners in the Dominican Republic: mutual consent and divorce for cause. The majority of Dominican divorces granted to foreigners are mutual consent divorces. The demanding party does not have to prove a specific cause for dissolving the bond of matrimony but rather, must show mutual agreement to dissolve the marriage. Although residency is not required, the personal appearance at the hearing of at least one party is necessary. The other party can be represented by an attorney authorized by power of attorney duly file in the Civil Registry Office.

A foreigner can obtain a divorce for cause (e.g., incompatibility of character, adultery, etc.). The divorce for cause requires the personal appearance of the plaintiff or his representative. In a divorce for cause action, the judge has extensive powers, including the right to determine the disposition of marital properties and support payments for the spouse and children of the marriage.

A divorce in the Dominican Republic, whether by mutual consent or for cause, has no effect or validity until such time as certain precise steps have been taken during the final phase of the divorce process. The judgment or "sentencia" must be rendered and filed in the Office of the Civil Registry, or "Oficina de Registro Civil." This filing date begins the 60-day period during which the judgment may be appealed.

The next step is to have the judgment "pronounced" by an appropriate, non-judicial official of the Oficina de Regristro Civil. The pronouncement ends the marriage. The parties are then considered single. Within eight days of the pronouncement, the divorce judgment must be published once in a newspaper of general circulation. Without the pronouncement and publication of the judgment, the divorce is not valid under Dominican law.

When getting a Dominican divorce, be sure to get

a) Divorce Court Order ( in Spanish and English, with the Consular's Signature and stamp on the back of the spanish version)
b) Divorce Extract ( in Spanish and English, with the Consular's Signature and stamp on the back of the spanish version)
c) Divorce Pronounciation ( in Spanish and English, with the Consular's Signature and stamp on the back of the spanish version)

If you are not in possession of a, b and c above, then you may not be legally divorced!

NOTE: The Dominican public registry offices operate differently from those in the U.S. and documents concerning legal procedures are obtained differently here. The only record of a divorce is a hand-written entry in a book in one of the many civil registry offices in the city where the divorce was performed. Since the records are not entered alphabetically but chronologically, they can only be retrieved on that basis. In addition, registry employees do not perform searches for the public. Books for a particular month are made available so that an individual or her/his representative can locate the desired entry. An extract of the record can then be prepared by the registry employee for a fee.

Searching for a particular record can be very time consuming unless one knows the precise date of the divorce and the precise location of the registry in which the book is physically located. Therefore, if you cannot be in the Dominican Republic to perform the search, you should consider hiring a lawyer or other representative to obtain the extract on your behalf.

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