Can I Divorce Through the Korean Court While My Wife Lives in Korea and Me in the U.S?

Q) I’m an American and my wife is Korean. She is living in Korea and I have returned to the USA. We have agreed to divorce. However, I can’t go back to Korea just to sign the papers. Is it possible to have her do it? Or have her email me the divorce agreement for me to sign and return to her? I just want to know how to divorce when the spouse doesn’t live in Korea.

Spouses Can Live in Different Country to File for Divorce in Korea

In general, the Korean court requires at least one spouse to reside in Korea in order to process the divorce filing. Thus, the fact that one spouse resides in a foreign country doesn’t bar a spouse living in Korea to file for divorce. The issue, however, lies in a procedural matter.

Types of Divorce Proceedings under Korean Law

There are two types of divorce proceedings in Korea.  One is a divorce by agreement and the other one is a divorce by judgment.  When people agree to divorce, there is no need to file for a divorce by judgment.  A divorce judgment is a judicial judgment that basically requires a court hearing, review and judgment.  There is one particular situation, however, when a divorce by judgment is required even when the divorce is uncontested.  That is when one spouse doesn’t reside in Korea.

Troubles Couple Living in Different Country Faces

The divorce by agreement in Korea requires both parties to reside within Korea.  The judge needs to confirm the genuine intent of divorce by meeting up with the couple at the courthouse.  Thus, when one spouse lives abroad like you, the court cannot process the application for divorce.

You might wonder if the divorce by agreement can be processed through the US Korean Consulate.  However, it is not the case.  Only Korean nationals can use the consultate service for the purpose of divorce.

Then should a spouse living in a foreign country travel to Korea to get divorced?  That could be considered as one option.  But for many people, that could be very burdensome.  Especially, if there is a minor child involved, the parties must meet with the judge 2 times.

Filing for Divorce by Judgment Can Solve the Problems

In such a situation, a divorce by judgment can be considered as an alternative.  Seen from our past experiences, it is the most convenient way to get divorced in Korea.  Your Korean attorney files a divorce complaint with the Korean Family Court and then the Korean court renders a divorce decree after reviewing relevant documents.  

This is the typical way for the foreign spouses living outside of Korea to get divorced with their spouses residing in Korea.  The benefit of this is you both don’t need to appear at the court and your Korean attorney can take care of the process.  And you can get a divorce decree within a month or two.  

The downside is that it costs some legal fees.  It requires a Korean qualified attorney who can take care of the proceedings on behalf of you including receiving the court documents.

You can find more articles about Korean divorce law and cases here.

If you have any questions about this article, please visit our Legal Consultation center or send your inquiry email by clicking here.  Our Korean licensed lawyer will answer your inquiry.

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