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RECOGNITION OF FOREIGN MARRIAGES/DIVORCES

  • Foreign Marriages:

Will my marriage abroad be recognized in Washington?

Generally speaking marriages which are valid in other jurisdictions will be recognized in Washington. This was not the case when Washington refused to recognize same sex marriages, see In re Marriage of Bureta 140 Wn.App. 199,164 P.3d. 534 (2007). In that case the court refused to recognize the marriage on two grounds, one Washington did not recognize same sex marriages and two, nor did Oregon where the marriage ceremony was performed. Now that Washington has same sex marriages this ground would not be a bar.

The current law in Washington is as follows:

RCW 26.04.020 (3)  “ A marriage between two persons that is recognized as valid in another jurisdiction is valid in this state only if the marriage is not prohibited or made unlawful under subsection (1)(a) or (2) of this section”.

Subsection (1)(a) provides: “When either party thereto has a spouse or registered domestic partner living at the time of such marriage, unless the registered domestic partner is the other party to the marriage;……” . Subsection (2) provides: It is unlawful for any person to marry his or her sibling, child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.

Under subsection (1) (b) marriages between first cousins are prohibited in Washington but see below.

I married my first cousin in another country. As marriages to first cousins are prohibited in Washington, does that mean that my marriage will not be recognized?

Under RCW 26.04.020 (1) (b) marriages to first cousins are not excluded from recognition in Washington if valid in the jurisdiction in which they were solemnised. 

  • Foreign Divorces:

I was divorced in a foreign country and the foreign court made a number of orders such as child support. If Washington would have jurisdiction over the case at this time, can I challenge the divorce in Washington and get new orders?

If the foreign court had jurisdiction and a valid divorce was acquired and if due process was given to the parties then the Washington court will not deny the validity of the foreign divorce decree and foreign orders.  See, for example, In Tostada v Tostada 137 Wn. App. 136, 151 P.3d 1060 (2007).