Divorce mill

Divorce mill

Divorce mill is a term used for a jurisdiction that is typically used for divorces by non-residents and/or used to obtain a divorce quickly and/or allow for contested divorces quickly and with little or no compensation to the other spouse. With the seven day stay now required in Guam, and the likelihood of the illegitimacy of contested divorces in other jurisdictions that don't observe due process, there really is little justification for the term "divorce mill", except for the quick uncontested divorces provided in the other countries mentioned, but all require at least an overnight stay, and with both spouses consenting to the divorce whether the term is valid is individual opinion.

There are three countries, one US territory, and one US state that could be regarded in this sense. Most of these jurisdictions also allow for "irreconcilable differences" as a cause for divorce, something that is not possible in some of the world including many US States (such as New York) and thus another reason people would get a divorce from one of these jurisdictions. A divorce based on "irreconcilable differences" is generally the only way to obtain a no-fault divorce without carrying out a one year legal separation agreement to be able to obtain a divorce, and is not available in many states.

These jurisdictions are (but not limited to):

Haiti, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic

Haiti, Mexico, and The Dominican Republic are fairly similar in this regard. These countries people typically go to get an overnight/long weekend divorce, or to get a quick and relatively painless contested divorce. In Haiti in particular you can get an uncontested divorce in a weekend stay. For the legality/validity of these contested divorces see Legality.

The State of Nevada

The State of Nevada is commonly used for a few reasons. It only requires a 6 week stay to meet the residency requirements, the lowest in the United States. One easy way to meet this requirement is by having another resident of Nevada simply sign an affidavit testifying to your residency there. Nevada allows for "irreconcilable differences" as a cause for divorce, the importance and notability of which was mentioned. Also, it has an extensive and straightforward system for marriage annulment, and attracts people who would prefer an annulment (which declares the marriage wasn't valid in the first place) than a divorce. One major reason this attracts people is it allows for an easy bypassing of the mandatory 50/50 split in some community property states, most notably the adjoining State of California.


Guam had (and still has some) very attractive reasons for obtaining an uncontested divorce there - reasons that make (or made) it a likely candidate for the title "divorce mill" - a title branded by many of its own politicians in a successful attempt to change the law.

Guam is a territory of the United States; most Americans are not aware of this fact. Because Guam is a territory of the United States, its courts are United States jurisdictional courts and the divorces it issues are valid in all of the states in the US. Prior to January 1, 2006, Guam allowed for an uncontested divorce without either spouse visiting the country at all - one of the few places if not the only that allowed this. After being charged as a "divorce mill", an agreement was made by the politicians of the territory with the lawyers and other lobbyists who did not want to change the law, to now require a 7 day stay in Guam (as opposed to the much longer ones proposed by the legislators) to obtain a divorce. Guam allows for "irreconcilable differences" as a cause for divorce, and Guam is much quicker to award a finalized divorce than many US states, taking a few weeks at most. Before the law was changed, it was a very attractive alternative for many Americans, as it was also quite affordable. However, due to its location in Southeast Asia, a trip there would be very expensive and not a viable alternative for most Americans.


Divorces granted by other countries are recognized ("Full faith and credit...") by the United States as long as no person's rights were infringed upon. The most notable in this situation is the notion of "due process", which is required by the Constitution of the United States and thus is not flexible. This means that the spouse whom is the defendant in the case must be notified of the proceedings and be given a certain time frame to respond to the allegations and state their case. This is only the case in a contested divorce, as in an uncontested divorce both spouses agree to the terms ("uncontested" means just that and the other spouse does not need to admit guilt, just waive their right to contest,) and sign off on the divorce; although in almost any if not all of these countries only one spouse is required to physically visit the country. While a contested divorce where due process was not observed is likely to be ruled invalid if challenged, it is not illegal, as matrimonial law is civil law and not criminal law, and is valid (by default) unless or until it is challenged (usually in the state or country of residency of either spouse.)

Thus, getting a contested divorce in another country is not likely to achieve the goals of the spouse requesting it, and is possible to even create a larger problem than before. An uncontested divorce is likely to be upheld in a court of law however, regardless of the general validity of contested divorces from these countries. While a "quick" contested divorce is likely if challenged to be declared invalid, it is, by case law, not considered bigamy if you remarry as long as the obtainer believed the divorce to be valid.

In the case of disputed custody of children, almost all lawyers would strongly advise you stay to the jurisdiction applicable to the dispute, i.e. the country or state of you or your spouse's residence. Even if not disputed, the spouse could later dispute it and potentially invalidate another jurisdiction's ruling.

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