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Monday, September 17, 2012

Are "quick" Mexico divorces valid?

Various online companies claim that valid Mexico divorces can be obtained by Americans in one business day even if one party is unable or unwilling to sign or otherwise participate in the process, and even if the petitioner does not know where the spouse is living.  All that is needed, they argue, is the completion of several simple forms.  

Not surprisingly, hundreds if not thousands of these "mail order" divorces are obtained every year.  They are generally, however, void under Mexico law and unenforceable under California law.

The Mexican General Population Act (Ley General de Población), which is a federal law and thus supreme in all states, literally provides that no judicial or administrative authority may hear a divorce action involving non-Mexicans unless the corresponding petition for dissolution of marriage is filed together with a certificate issued by Mexico’s Department of State, certifying the plaintiff’s legal residency in Mexico and that the plaintiff’s immigration status allows the filing. The Regulations of the Mexican General Population Act (Reglamento de la Ley General de Población), which explain and expand the provisions of the Mexican General Population Act, further provide that a Divorce Permit shall be granted only if the marital domicile was established in Mexico. 
Furthermore, most state codes of civil procedure require “each lawsuit shall be filed before a competent judge.” In divorce matters, “competent Judge” is that of the jurisdiction in which the marital domicile is located. Thus, when neither party is domiciled within the jurisdiction of the court, no divorce can validly be granted and all proceedings, as well as the judgment, are void.

As for the notice element, the requirements of due process of law, as set forth in the Mexican Constitution (Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos) require that respondent be given notice and an opportunity to be heard.  Thus, a valid divorce cannot be obtained without giving respondent proper notice and an opportunity to be heard.
And with regards to time, a divorce proceeding will normally take a minimum of 60 days. There is no such thing as a "same day divorce".  This is supported by the information published by the Consulate General of the United States and the Government of Canada, advising that the process to obtain a divorce in Mexico “takes several months.” 

Based on the above, people, no matter how desperate they may be, should think twice before trying to obtain a Mexico divorce without first receiving competent legal advice, and divorce attorneys not well versed in Mexico and international law world, whether on behalf of the petitioner or of the respondent, shall make sure that they are have the resources necessary to competently and diligently represent and protect the best interests of their clients.

Mauricio Leon de la Barra is an international law attorney licensed to practice law in Mexico and California, and has more than 15 years of experience representing clients in business and real estate transactions and litigation involving international, U.S. and Mexican laws.