TN 31 (08-05)

GN 00307.280 Divorces Outside the U.S

A. Policy

SSA does not assume a divorce is valid if it took place in a country whose laws do not permit divorce (GN 00307.280D. for a list).

B. Procedure

1. General

When asking an FSP to get a copy of a foreign divorce decree, give it complete identifying information as follows:

  • Date the divorce was granted (at least the month and year);

  • Name and address of the court which granted the divorce (if unknown, show the complete address(es) of the parties at time of the divorce);

  • Full names of the parties to the divorce; and

  • Date and place of the marriage if they were married in the same country (include a copy of the marriage record if in file).

Avoid vague requests to check records for many years (e.g., 1931 -1942) or for large areas (e.g., Mexico City). However, if it is necessary to request a search for a long period, explain the reason for the request (e.g., we have two widow claimants and this information is needed before applying a presumption of the validity of the last marriage).

In Mexican cases, give full identifying information since most courts do not keep formal records. A search of these records can require a manual search of piles of copies of decrees which are not in chronological order.

2. Country Does Not Permit Divorce

If a claimant says a valid divorce occurred in a country where (or at a time when) divorce was not permitted:

  • Ask for a copy of the divorce decree;

  • Submit it to an authorized translator to verify it is a decree of absolute divorce; and

  • Submit the case for a legal opinion on the validity of the divorce if the decree appears to grant an absolute divorce.

C. Process

The FSP will review the request for completeness. If the information is not sufficient to locate the record, the FSP will return the request and so advise the requesting office.

If the FSP can check some records (e.g., in the civil registry office), it will do so.

The amount of development undertaken depends on the recordkeeping system in that country (i.e., whether records are centralized, separate registers are maintained, marriage records are annotated, etc.).

D. List of Countries

This list shows information on the countries whose laws do/did not permit divorce:

Country 
ArgentinaAt any time
Brazil Prior to December 26, 1977
Chile Prior to 11/18/2004
Colombia Prior to February 18, 1976
Ireland Prior to February 27, 1997
Italy Prior to January 1, 1971
Liechtenstein If either party is Catholic
Philippines Prior to 1917 and after August 29, 1950 (see GN 00307.770)
Portugal Roman Catholic marriages performed after July 31, 1940 and before June 1, 1975 could not be dissolved by divorce before June 1, 1975
Spain Except for the period March 2, 1932 through March 4, 1938 and after July 19, 1981

To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0200307280
GN 00307.280 - Divorces Outside the U.S - 09/02/2005
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