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Special Family Issues

Legal Options For Divorce in the Dominican Republic

U.S. Citizens who wish to obtain a Divorce in the Dominican Republic should consult with a local attorney for advice and legal representation.

Before seeking a divorce in the Dominican Republic, U.S. citizens should be aware of possible legal restrictions by their U.S. state of residence on divorces obtained abroad. It is advisable to contact an attorney in your state of residence to determine whether or not the courts of your state will recognize a Dominican divorce as valid. Some states, even if they will recognize Dominican divorces, may have special criteria or procedures particular to that state.

Types of Divorce

There are two types of divorces available to foreigners in the Dominican Republic: divorce by mutual consent and divorce for cause. The majority of Dominican divorces granted to foreigners are mutual consent divorces. In such 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, at least one of the parties must appear at the hearing. An attorney authorized by power of attorney duly filed in the Civil Registry Office may represent the other party.

A foreigner can obtain a divorce for cause (e.g., incompatibility of character, adultery, etc.) if he or she resided in the Dominican Republic and the cause of action or reason for the divorce arose during the period of residence. The divorce for cause requires the personal appearance of the plaintiff or his/her legal representative. In a divorce for cause, the judge has extensive powers, including the right to determine the disposition of marital properties and support payments, if any, for the spouse and children.

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 either party may appeal the judgment. The next step is to have the judgment "pronounced" by an appropriate, non-judicial official of the Office of the Civil Registry. 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. This publication is the responsibility of the parties involved and/or their lawyer. Without the pronouncement and publication of the judgment, the divorce is not valid under Dominican law.

Among the different effects produced by divorce are:

  • Spouses who remarry each other may only do so under the same system that governed their prior marriage; and
  • Divorced women cannot get married again until 10 months after their divorce is finalized, unless her new husband is the same man she divorced.

Obtaining a Copy of a Dominican Divorce Decree

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 civil registry office 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.