The easiest places offshore… to get divorced

[Editor’s note: Tim Staermose, Sovereign Man’s Chief Investment Strategist, is filling in for Simon today.]

Recently, I had the not-so-pleasant experience of dissolving my marriage. My wife and I never had kids, and our lives were going in completely different directions.

We remain friends. But we were spending hardly any time together, and agreed that it was for the best to go our separate ways.

According to the law in the Philippines, where we were married, divorce is not possible, except in the Islamic community.

(Some Filipinos are actually getting around the ban on divorce by converting to Islam. But that’s a story for another day.)

My wife and I beat the system another way. We are both residents of Hong Kong. Divorce here, as with many things in Hong Kong is very straightforward.

In the end, we did not even need a lawyer, and the whole thing will have cost less than $100.

Admittedly, our case was not very complicated. Both parties were in agreement. Financial assets had been split evenly. And there were no kids.

Should you happen to find yourself in a situation where obtaining a divorce is proving a costly headache, Hong Kong may offer an “out.”

One party can initiate proceedings unilaterally. If you can prove to the court you have lived apart from your spouse for at least 2 years, your spouse does not even need to agree to the divorce.

According to the Matrimonial Ordinance, courts in Hong Kong shall have jurisdiction in proceedings for divorce if:

a) either of the parties to the marriage was domiciled in Hong Kong at the date of the petition;

b) either of the parties to the marriage was habitually resident in Hong Kong throughout the period of 3 years immediately preceding the date of the petition;

c) either of the parties to the marriage had a substantial connection with Hong Kong at the date of the petition.

The rules surrounding the definition of “substantial connection” are not black and white.

Being employed or resident here, having a company or business here, or even spending a significant amount of time here, could be enough.

Renting or buying a home in Hong Kong, having a Hong Kong identity card, paying Hong Kong tax, and joining Hong Kong clubs or societies, may also be taken into account.

If your current situation is intolerable enough, and you have no prospect of getting a divorce where you are now… it may be an avenue worth exploring. But there are others, too.

One country that has made an industry out of granting ‘quickie divorces’ is the Dominican Republic. However, the island is full of disreputable lawyers, and many jurisdictions simply will not recognize a Dominican Republic divorce.

Guam, on the other hand may be a good alternative. If both parties agree and sign a “consent to jurisdiction” form, a Guam divorce can be finalized in a short period of time.

Most divorces in Guam are granted on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” This is a “no fault” divorce. The court will grant the divorce based on the parties’ agreement that the marriage should end.

The nice thing is that Guam is a US territory, and the judgments of its courts are recognized by all other US jurisdictions.

The only catch is that at least one spouse will need to visit Guam for a minimum of 7 days.

But let’s be honest. When signing your divorce papers, maybe a week on the beach is just what the doctor ordered…

About the Author

Tim Staermose is Sovereign Man's Chief Investment officer, based in the Asia-Pacific region. Born to a Danish father and British mother in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Tim has led an international life since the day he was born. He has lived and worked throughout Asia, primarily focusing on equity research and emerging market opportunities.