[Q&A: Family Law] How Can I Divorce If I Don’t Know Whereabouts of My Spouse in Korea – Getting a Korean Ex-Parte Divorce Decree and Recognition of Foreign Divorce Decree in Korea

Q) I have a friend who is living in New York.  He is a US Citizen who has resided in New York for several years. His wife is from South Korea, but they have not seen each other since 2009. I don’t believe there is any animosity; he just wants to file for divorce since they are no longer in contact. My friend has not been able to get in contact with her for some time, and her family is unsure of her whereabouts as well. The parties were married in South Korea. My friend has been residing in New York so he can file here for divorce; however I am concerned about having proper service there in Korea, especially since we are unsure of her whereabouts. I believe it may be beneficial for my friend to contact a Korean Attorney. I also need to make sure that his wife did not already file for divorce in South Korea or else us filing her is a duplication of services.

A) If your friend is unable to locate his wife in Korea and concerned about the issue of proper service when filing for divorce in New York, he could have an idea to file for divorce in Korea.  In a case where the plaintiff does not know the whereabouts of the defendant, the Korean court issues a divorce decree in ex parte.  

Of course, if your friend finds the whereabouts of his wife, and the service is duly made to her, the New York divorce decree shall be honored by the Korean court.  But, as you might note, the service may take quite long to be executed considering it should be done through the diplomatic channels between South Korea and the U.S.

By the way, if your friend knows the wife’s Korean resident registration number, he can locate her current address in Korea with that number.  Also he can check the court records on whether she has filed for divorce in Korea or not, using that personal registration number.

If he can locate her address, finalizing a divorce in Korea would be a good alternative.  I saw many U.S. people using Korean divorce system and bring the Korean divorce decree to get recognized in the U.S.

If you have any question about foreign couple’s divorce and any family law related matters in Korea, please visit our Legal Consultation center or send your inquiry email by clicking here.  Our Korean licensed lawyers, not a U.S. lawyer residing in Korea, will answer your inquiry.

Also you can find a stack of legal information and articles on Korean divorce law, written by a Korean qualified lawyer, by clicking here.

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