What to Do When You’re Living in Maryland and You Need to Enforce the Divorce You Got Outside the United States

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 30% of all Montgomery County residents were born somewhere outside the United States. That means thousands of people living in Maryland may have married somewhere other than the U.S. and may have even divorced outside this country. If you’re living in this state but you obtained a divorce from somewhere outside the U.S., there are steps you must undertake to make your foreign divorce enforceable here in Maryland. One way to help yourself along the way is to retain an experienced Maryland divorce lawyer who can guide you in getting the Maryland court order you need.

As an example of what’s involved, we can look at this recent divorce case involving a West African couple living in Montgomery County.

C.H. and her husband, J.A., married in the African nation of Togo before relocating to Montgomery County. In June 2018, the wife obtained a divorce judgment from a Togolese court. That court issued the judgment in the official language of Togo, which is French.

Because the wife now lived in Maryland, she needed more than just a Togolese divorce, however, because foreign court orders generally are not, by themselves, enforceable in the U.S. C.H. needed something from a Maryland court.

The Process of ‘Enrolling’ a Foreign Judgment

So, in February 2019, she filed something called a “praecipe to enroll a foreign judgment.” That is the court filing through which a Maryland court can declare foreign judgment enforceable and effective in this state. Along with that request, the wife submitted the divorce judgment and an English translation of the judgment.

The court in Montgomery County held a hearing in May 2019, in which the husband argued that the judge should reject the wife’s request because the Togolese divorce she presented to the court was not authentic.

The Maryland court sided with the wife and entered an order enforcing the foreign divorce.

At this point, the wife had done what she needed to do and had obtained the order she sought. If, however, you’re someone in a position like this husband, you still have options… if you act swiftly enough.

If you have lost following a hearing in a Maryland trial court, Rule 2-535(a) gives you the option to seek revisions for a broad array of reasons, but only if you make that request within 30 days of the date the court entered the judgment.

If you’re outside that 30-day period, you need something more. Subsections b, c, and d of Rule 2-535 allow you to seek a revision after 30 days, but you have to prove to the court either that there was some sort of “fraud, mistake, or irregularity,” that you have unearthed newly discovered evidence, or that the judgment contained one or more clerical mistakes.

Not all Fraud is Sufficient Fraud

It’s important to understand that not all fraud is sufficient to entitle a party to a judgment revision under Rule 2-535(b). Specifically, the party requesting the revision must show the presence of what the law calls “extrinsic fraud,” which means fraud that “actually prevents an adversarial trial.”

The husband filed well after 30 days, so he asserted the existence of fraud.

The court in this couple’s case concluded there was no extrinsic fraud. The husband had a full opportunity to argue about the accuracy and authenticity of the divorce document and the translation of the original judgment. Additionally, the types of fraud the husband alleged were matters that, even if true, would not have prevented an authentically adversarial trial. As a result, the things the husband presented did not amount to extrinsic fraud and could not viably trigger Rule 2-535(b).

Whether you have relocated to Maryland from just across the Potomac River or halfway across the globe, you may face procedural challenges if you got your divorce from somewhere else. You may need to take legal action in this state to enforce that foreign decree. The knowledgeable Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC can help, providing you with the advice and advocacy you need to achieve your objectives. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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