PR 06205.043 Puerto Rico
A. PR 79-002 Validity of Divorce (~ ) Edgardo D. G~ and Carmen R. R~
DATE: January 25, 1979
DIGEST OF GENERAL COUNSEL OPINION
DIVORCE -- Recognition of Foreign Divorce
PUERTO RICO--Mutual consent of the parties is now a valid ground for divorce in Puerto Rico, pursuant to a recent decision of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, which has not yet been reflected in the statute and which is not published in English. Based on this change in its own law, it now appears that Puerto Rico would recognize otherwise valid foreign divorces previously obtained on this ground.
Mutual consent of the parties is now a valid ground for divorce in Puerto Rico, pursuant to a recent decision of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, which has not yet been reflected in the statute and which is not published in English. Based on this change in its own law, it now appears that Puerto Rico would recognize otherwise valid foreign divorces previously obtained on this (G~ , Edgardo D. - RAII (S~) to Director, Mid-Atlantic Program Service Center - 1/25/79)
This is in response to your memorandum dated September 27, 1978 regarding the recognition by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico of a valid Dominican Republic divorce based on mutual consent. The occasion for the delay has been a major change in the applicable law of divorce due to a recent Puerto Rico Supreme Court decision -- Sonia F. F~ and Roberto Morales Morales v. the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (May 15, 1978)-- which held portions of the statute in this area unconstitutional. The statute has not been amended to reflect this change and the case opinion, which is quite lengthy, was published only in Spanish and required a translation. For your information, I have attached a copy of the translation.
As a result of this recent decision Puerto Rico must now permit divorces based on mutual consent in order to fully protect its citizens' constitutional right to privacy and human dignity, a right which the Puerto Rico Supreme Court held to be rather more sweeping than the corresponding federal Constitutional rights. Since mutual consent is now a legal, legitimate ground for divorce in Puerto Rico it can no longer be considered a matter contrary to Puerto Rican "public policy."
This is important because principles of international law, or comity, generally require that one country accept as valid the valid judgments of another country unless those foreign judgments violate a strong public policy of the country which is being called upon to give recognition. In the past, Puerto Rico interpreted the public policy issue in the foreign divorce context quite narrowly, so as not to recognize foreign divorces granted upon grounds unavailable in Puerto Rico. See, e.g. Ramirez v. Registrar, 96 Puerto Rican Reports 332, 348 (1968). But even under a narrow test, valid foreign mutual consent divorces would now be valid in Puerto Rico.
We recognize that the divorce of Carmen R. R~ was obtained prior to the change in Puerto Rican law but, for several reasons, do not believe that this would prevent its application to this decision -- i.e., whether or not to recognize the Dominican Republic judgment at this time, as valid in Puerto Rico. First, decisions based on fundamental constitutional rights are often applied retroactively, insofar as possible. More importantly, under principles of comity, the only issue herein presented is whether a divorce concedely valid in the country in which it was obtained at the time it was obtained would today be deemed consistent with the public policy of Puerto Rico. Considering the strong terms in which the Puerto Rico Supreme Court couched its opinion on mutual consent divorces, we believe that it would look askance at any contention that public policy precluded the recognition at this time of a valid foreign judgment based on the same grounds.