Are foreign divorces and court orders enforced in the U.S.?

divorce attorney Jill DuffyQuestion:

My ex-wife and I lived in Canada when we got divorced so our divorce decree is from another country.

Our decree contains ambiguous language regarding spousal support after I retire.

Is this order from Canada enforceable in the United States? Does the U.S. recognize foreign divorces and their orders?


First, let me preface my answer by stating that I am not licensed to practice law in the state of Pennsylvania or the country of Canada. The information in this article is general in nature. You should contact an attorney in your jurisdiction immediately to discuss your options.

Marriage and divorce are generally matters reserved to each individual state, rather than the federal government. There is no treaty between the United States and any country on enforcement of judgments, including recognition of foreign divorces or support orders.

However, under the principle of comity (legal reciprocity) a foreign divorce or order can be recognized in the United States. All states in the United States will give “full faith and credit” to a divorce or order that was obtained following the proper procedures in the country it was issued.

In order to enforce a foreign judgment or support order the order must be registered in the state of enforcement. Usually, the order will only be enforced to the extent it would have been enforced in its country of origin.

If there is some ambiguity in the language of your support order as to whether you must support your former wife during your retirement you should seek clarification of the language from the court that entered the support order.

You should contact an attorney who is licensed in Canada to further discuss the specifics of your situation. Thank you for submitting your question.


Jill A. Duffy is an Associate Attorney in the Troy, Mich., office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in the state of Michigan. Ms. Duffy received her BA in Psychology and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oakland University. She received her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

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One comment on “Are foreign divorces and court orders enforced in the U.S.?

    divorce between a foreigner
    my wife is japanese and i am an american we want to get a divorce but our child is american citizen how can i keep my child

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