Top 7 Reasons Why International Marriages Fall Apart

Oct 19, 2020 9:42 AM ET

Oct 19, 2020 5:42 AM ET
iCrowd Newswire – Oct 19, 2020


Marriage with a U.S. citizen is the fastest way to get American citizenship. It is even quicker than the refugees’ path, the most protected of all migrant categories. Marriage to an American is the fastest and most preferred category for immigration to the United States because there are no quotas; that is, the number of immigrants allowed into the U.S. per year.

The apparent advantage of getting a visa in this way is that there is no need to provide financial stability confirmation. The application for such a visa includes a minimum amount of documents. Besides, a foreign spouse can apply for naturalization after only three years. As a result, many are trying to move to the United States through marriage.

Where there are marriages, there are also divorces. Recent research by showed that approximately 17% of all marriages between a U.S. citizen and a foreigner end before they request naturalization, and 24% fall apart a few years after it.

So what makes international couples split up after a long and challenging process of getting together? How does divorce look in this case, and what rights do the spouses have regarding property or alimony? Let’s dig deeper and find out what to expect from an international divorce.

Features of international divorces

At the time of the divorce, the spouses may still be citizens of different countries, making divorce international. These divorces have some advantages over those concluded between citizens of one country. They allow spouses to choose a jurisdiction, that is, a place where the divorce will be most favorable.

If the spouses live in different countries, marriage dissolution can be performed in either of them. When both of them live in one country, they can file for divorce there, assuming they meet the residency requirements. For example, most states in the U.S. have specific periods during which a person must live within a particular state’s territory to be considered a resident.

In Ohio, one of the spouses must live in the state for six months before filing for divorce. In California and Illinois, this period is three months, and in Washington, South Dakota, and Alaska, there are no specific requirements as to how long you have to live in the state to file for divorce there.

What rights does a foreign spouse have in a divorce case?

There is a misconception that an immigrant has fewer rights than a citizen. Another one is that everything depends on the partner (a U.S. citizen) and their intention to bring immigration matters to an end. 

There are specific regulations regarding how long a marriage should be to obtain a green card or conditional citizenship. If a marriage lasted for less than two years, a foreign spouse gets a conditional resident status. After another two years, they can file a petition to gain permanent resident status. However, dependence on a spouse in obtaining legal status in the United States is not total in nature. You can make do without it if your divorce is due to one of the following reasons:

  • domestic violence or abuse;
  • severe harm or difficulties in the event of deportation (health conditions that would worsen);
  • the divorce is not the immigrant spouse’s fault (for example, adultery).

The court that handles the divorce case decides property division and alimony under the state’s laws.

In most states, the courts divide property on an equitable basis and not necessarily equally. The court considers many individual factors such as age, years in marriage, who worked and who ran the household, and the spouses’ health. As a general rule, the property received before marriage and inheritances and gifts is not subject to division.

As for alimony, a judge determines its type and duration according to many factors. In most states, marital misconduct doesn’t affect alimony; one of the main factors is the length of the marriage. As a rule, if a dependent spouse remarries, they stop receiving financial support from the other party.

Reasons for divorce in international couples

Couples in which two cultures meet are unique. That’s why they experience more difficulties than representatives of one nation. In addition to the main reasons for divorce, such as adultery, abuse, and loss of common interest, these couples face several other problems.

  • The economic hardships of the foreign spouse

On average, immigrants earn much less income than their U.S. spouses. Foreign spouses need to start by learning the language, receive education, and find a job. There is an inequality between the spouses, which has an additional negative effect on the marriage itself.

As a result, the stress of financial disparity between partners frequently arises in marriage, which causes conflicts in the family, especially when they already experience financial problems.

  • Differences in mentality

When spouses get married, many questions arise: how to raise children, which culture to adopt, language to learn, religion to choose? Whose traditions should a couple follow? Cultural norms common to a foreign spouse and influencing behavior and relationships in marriage can differ significantly from those accepted in America.

For example, spending money on vacation can become an issue when one of the spouses wants to stay at home and save money when the other wants to spend time in the mountains or a spa hotel. Being the primary “breadwinner” in the family, the U.S. citizen dictates the rules to intimidate their spouse and make them feel dependent.

  • Cultural differences

In intercultural marriages, couples often face problems that are not typical for those in which both partners belong to the same culture. Different cultures have different moral, ethical norms and concepts. The spouses may perceive the notions of family, society, and social lifestyle differently. When both sides’ principles collide, not all families can cope with rising conflicts and resolve them overnight.

  • The negative attitude of the family

Sometimes family members openly show rejection, resistance, and hostility towards one of the partners. Such an attitude may be associated with the generation gap in matters of ideology and trivial things, for example, how a wedding should be organized, how children should be brought up, and what religion they should adopt. Also, such marriages are often subject to racism, which can be another ??potential disagreement.

  • Religious grounds

Interfaith marriages are not uncommon these days, mainly because there is such a diverse society in the U.S. in terms of religion. Faith influences many aspects of our life, such as behaving in a given situation, raising children, and interacting with society. If a couple cannot find compromises and show mutual respect, their relationship might face serious challenges.

In some religious traditions, a marriage is considered successful if the couple has a similar religion, education, social status, culture, and nationality. If there is no such compatibility, it will be complicated to create harmonious and robust marriage relationships.

  • Differences in views

The divergence of opinions on politics, ecology, and healthcare in the country is one reason for many family conflicts. No matter how ridiculous it may sound, people get divorced because they support different presidential candidates.

Other political themes that destroy marriages are climate change, gun control, respect for LGBT rights, racial differences, freedom of religion, etc. Spouses also file for divorce because of opposing views on various movements, especially those that concern their nationality.

It’s no secret that many Americans, looking for a foreign spouse, often choose someone much younger than themselves. At the time of marriage, everyone is happy and does not know how their life will develop in the future. Time passes, and the spouses realize with horror that they have entirely different views on things.

It is believed that the difference between spouses should not exceed ten years for them to be comfortable with each other. If this gap is more than ten years, and cultural differences add fuel to the fire, a couple may experience severe conflicts that often lead to divorce.

Final word

Divorce is a rather unpleasant event that can happen to even the happiest family. A wide variety of circumstances can cause this, ranging from financial problems to a spouse’s simple rejection.

In inter-ethnic families, the differences between partners are sometimes so significant that it is impossible to keep the family together. When choosing a partner for life, think about all the pros and cons of international marriage to save yourself from disappointment.