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International Property in Divorce Proceeding

Surendran K. Pattel Attorney & Counselor at Law, PKS Law Firm, PLLC

Surendran K. Pattel
Attorney & Counselor at Law, PKS Law Firm, PLLC

Question: In divorce, what happens to assets located abroad?
Answer: There are many marriages in which couples living in Texas have property or other assets abroad that must be dealt with if the couple decides to divorce. Texas courts are asked at times to consider the international holdings of the man and woman who married abroad, then moved to the United States to work or live; in some cases, just one spouse is from another country. There are instances, too, in which one party might have worked abroad in the past, with the issue being retirement benefits earned abroad. Whatever the individual circumstance, divorce cases involving foreign holdings can be difficult to litigate in Texas.
As a general rule, property acquired in marriage will be treated as community property, regardless where the property is located. Exceptions might include gifts or inheritances. The court may consider the value of real property outside of Texas in an equitable division of property. While Texas courts do not assert jurisdiction to determine title to such land, they may consider foreign investments when they divide property.
There are ways in which a Texas court can obtain jurisdiction. For a court to issue a binding order, the court must have jurisdiction over the person and/or property. In rem jurisdiction occurs when a Texas court obtains jurisdiction over a piece of property, more often than not because the property is in Texas. However, if a Texas court has involved in your divorce, it can compel you to divide property or other assets abroad.
Although a Texas court cannot exercise jurisdiction over international assets directly, it can indirectly do so by exercising jurisdiction over the parties in the divorce. In other words, a Texas court can direct a party to execute documents to transfer or divide property whether it located in Texas or abroad.
Still, its bet to remember that even when you obtain a Texas court order to divide property abroad, it may be difficult to enforce the order. Some countries recognize foreign judgments, but others will not act on a Texas divorce court order, meaning that you may be forced to take other actions in order to complete the division of property. In any case, if you are considering a divorce in which international property is involved, you should contact an attorney with experience in such potentially complex matters.
Disclaimer: Information in this column is meant to be general and informational; it is not intended as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your personal situation before you take any action that has legal consequences.
BIO: Surendran K. Pattel is an Indian-born attorney in private practice in the Houston area. He is the founder of PKS Law Firm, PLLC. He is licensed to practice in Texas, United States District Court Southern District of Texas, and in India. To contact please email: adv.surendran@gmail.com


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