Many Americans assume that the divorce laws in the United States are the same as those in other nations – perhaps with minor adjustments. But the truth is that divorce laws vary wildly from country to country, and spouses can experience very different outcomes depending on where they get divorced. So, what are these differences, and can our lawmakers learn anything from the systems followed by other nations?

In Some Countries, Divorce is Illegal

You first need to understand that divorce is not even legal in some countries. As of this writing, only two countries have banned divorce: The Vatican and the Philippines. The Vatican’s laws against divorce are understandable from a purely symbolic perspective, as this is the home of the entire Catholic Church. However, the Philippines provides us with an interesting and extremely rare case where marriage really is a matter of “till death do us part.” That said, the Philippines does allow something called an “annulment,” although this is incredibly difficult to obtain. It is worth mentioning that over 80% of the Filipino population is Catholic. 

Alimony is Not Guaranteed Across the World

Many Americans take alimony for granted, but this is far from guaranteed around the world. While Commonwealth countries like Canada and England have their versions of alimony, many western nations have moved away from this system. A notable example is Japan, where courts award a one-time payment called “isha-ryo” to whichever spouse has been “wronged.” This is the only type of spousal support that Japanese spouses can receive. 

Leaving the Country to Avoid Paying Support

Due to the fact that so many countries have varying divorce laws (and extradition laws), some Americans might come to the conclusion that it is better to flee the nation than to stay in the United States and continue paying support. But does this strategy really work? If a spouse did this, they would have to say goodbye to their home forever. After a few years, the spouse would likely be indicted on a felony charge for failing to pay child support. From there, they would probably lose their passport, their driver’s license, and anything else that linked them to their home country. In addition, spouses would probably lose their social security benefits, which could amount to thousands of dollars per month. Some individuals overstay their visas for decades, leaving them essentially “stateless.” If they were to try to leave the foreign country, they would run into serious issues – as they would have no American or foreign passport. 

At the end of the day, American citizens enjoy a pretty amazing system when it comes to divorce law. Although the system isn’t perfect, it’s certainly better than that of many other nations – especially those that don’t even allow divorce in the first place. This is something spouses in the United States should definitely keep in mind the next time they feel frustrated with their divorce laws.