Changing divorce laws in Brazil impact couples and their children

October 29, 2012
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Brazil’s changing divorce laws affect couples and kids

An American woman marries a foreigner. The couple has a child and then decides to move to the husband’s home country. After living there for several years, their marriage crumbles. They divorce, and when the wife attempts to bring her child back to America with her, she encounters resistance from her soon-to-be ex-husband and the court system of that country.

This is a completely plausible scenario, according to prominent New York marriage lawyer Marilyn Chinitz. She told Reuters last week that when it comes to divorce, the location of residence and where a divorce is filed is most critical.

Other international family law experts told Reuters that divorce procedures involving two parties who are citizens of different countries have become more complicated in recent years, due to variations in the law between countries, especially regarding such contentious issues as child custody, division of marital property, alimony and spousal support, and visitation guidelines. The recognition or homologation of foreign divorces in Brazil, believe it or not, will require a filing with the second highest court in the country in addition to potentially thousands of dollars in attorney and cross-border paperwork fees.

Recent changes to Brazil divorce law

Before 2010, when an amendment to the Brazilian constitution altered the law, couples were mandated to remain legally separated for one year before filing for a divorce. At the time, supporters of that amendment claimed that it would expedite legal processes and lead to a resolution that was agreeable to both parties.

“The procedure for the dissolution of marriage was simplified, thus reducing the interference of the state in people’s lives without altering the greater principle of protecting the family,” Senate leader Jose Sarney told the Latin American Herald Tribune.

Since that time, divorce rates have spiked to a level not seen since recordkeeping began in 1984, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. The divorce rate climbed by nearly 37 percent in 2010 – the first year since new legal procedures were enacted.

Given these changes, and the complicated nature of divorce law in Brazil, a comprehensive understanding of legal procedures is critical before filing for separation. A certified Brazilian divorce attorney can represent a foreigner’s interests in Brazil and ensure that a divorce is settled fairly. And, if you haven’t married yet, consider hiring an attorney to advise you on a prenuptial agreement.

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