A Guam divorce may be a quick and inexpensive alternative for couples who are in agreement to the terms of the divorce and who do not wish to spend the time or money to obtain a divorce in the area they normally reside or travel back to their home State. A Guam divorce may be particularly advantageous to U.S. Military and civilian personnel stationed or working overseas in countries where they are unable to obtain a divorce or where such divorces are not subsequently recognized back in the United States. Couples residing in the United States, where the divorce process is lengthy and expensive, and non-U.S. citizens, may also find a Guam divorce more suitable to their needs.
The information that follows is provided for information purposes only and should NOT be considered legal advice. Please consult a reputable attorney to address your particular situation. The Woodley Law Office has been providing family law services on Guam since 1982. Mr. Woodley is a U.S. Military veteran attorney who is well versed in Guam and Military law. Contact the Woodley Law Office for a free initial consultation.
A Guam divorce is legal and recognized in all 50 States and jurisdictions of the United States in accordance with U.S. Federal law. The island of Guam was ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish American War in 1898. The U.S. Congress, Guam Organic Act of 1950, (48 U.S.C. § 1421 et seq.), designated Guam an unincorporated territory of the United States. U.S. Code, Title 28 §1738 declares that a decision of a Guam court will be recognized by the 50 United States and other jurisdictions of the United States.
Guam courts will grant a divorce to citizens of countries other than the United States who otherwise satisfy requirements described below; however, non United Sates residents should consult the laws of their country to determine if a U.S. divorce will be recognized..
There is no such thing on Guam as a “non-resident divorce”. However, under current Guam law, an uncontested divorce may be granted if both parties are in agreement to the terms of the divorce and at least one spouse visits Guam for a minimum of 7 days prior to filing the petition. The 7-day stay satisfies the residency requirement for an uncontested divorce. If either spouse does not agree to any terms, including child custody or property settlement, the petitioner must file for a contested divorce and must meet a 90 day residency requirement as well as provide reasonable notification to the off-island spouse.
Property and Custody Settlement. If both parties are in agreement, a property settlement and child custodial agreement may be attached to the petition and become part of the divorce decree. If the parties have not come to agreement on division of property or custody of the children, but still desire an immediate divorce, a divorce may be granted leaving contested property, custody and child support issues for another court having jurisdiction over the children and or property.
How long Will it Take? You may have heard stories of people getting a Guam divorce in 7 days without ever setting foot on the Island. Prior to 2006, Guam courts would grant an uncontested divorce without either party being present on Guam . However, in 2006, Guam law was changed to require that at least one party reside on Guam for at least 7 days. Also, the Guam court workload has increased significantly and processing times extended accordingly. The following table may be used to estimate how long it will for an off-island resident to obtain a divorce on Guam.
Time to accomplish
|Client submits documents, makes travel arrangements, schedules appointment with attorney. Accomplished via telephone, fax and email.||Determined by client’s ability to gather and provide required documents, including spouse agreement, and client’s travel schedule.|
Client arrives on Guam, meets with attorney. Note: Please schedule attorney appointment before traveling to Guam.
Attorney files petition wiith court.
|Court processing/schedule appearance.||<30 to 45 days depending on court backlog.|
What Will it Cost? The Woodley Law Office charges a flat rate of $1,540 for an uncontested off-island divorce. This rate includes legal counsel and processing of documents prior to travel to Guam, preparation and filing of court documents, representation in court and all court fees. This fee does not include costs of air fare, hotel or other per diem an incidental costs incurred while visiting Guam .
Uncontested Divorce. Guam law permits the courts to grant an uncontested divorce if both parties are in agreement to the terms of the divorce and at least one spouse has resided on Guam for a minimum of 7 days. As a general rule, the grounds for an uncontested divorce are irreconcilable differences. The 7-day stay satisfies the residency requirement for an uncontested divorce only. If either of the parties are not in agreement to any terms of the divorce, to include child custody or property settlement, the divorce becomes contested and requirements to obtain the divorce become greater as discussed below.
Contested Divorce. A divorce is “contested” when the parties are not in agreement to obtaining a divorce, terms of divorce, child custody or property settlement. The grounds for a contested divorce may be expanded to include adultery, extreme mental cruelty, etc. If the divorce is contested, at least one spouse must have been a resident of Guam for at least 90 days immediately preceding the filing of the petition. Assignment to a military unit or ship ported on Guam for 90 days meets this requirement. The time and cost to obtain a contested divorce will vary considerably depending on the merits of each case, the number of court appearances and other issues that may delay the process.
Off-Island Spouse. An individual who has satisfied the residency requirements dicused above who desires to divorce a spouse who is not living on Guam, must give the spouse timely notice in the form of a Petition for Divorce. The spouse may consent to the divorce or may contest the petition by either appearing in person or by retaining a Guam attorney to appear for him/her in court. Should the spouse not respond within 30 days of the petition, the court may grant the divorce in their absence.
Property and Custody Settlement. Unless the parties have agreed to a custody or property settlement, the court will distribute community property and debts as well as determine custody and visitation of children of the marriage who have resided on Guam within 6 months of the filing. Guam is a community property State. Community or martial property, property acquired during the marriage, is generally divided equally unless there is an agreement to the contrary. Separate property, property acquired prior to the marriage, is generally retained by the owning spouse. If one party resides on Guam and the other elsewhere, the court may lack jurisdiction over property, debts and children located outside of Guam. Division of property may need to be decided in a court having jurisdiction. In the case of children who have resided outside of Guam for more than 6 months prior to filing for the divorce, custody, child support and visitation will be determined by the state of the children’s current residency.
States and Territorial statutes and judicial proceedings; full faith and credit. Provides that properly authenticated judicial proceedings of U.S. Territories, such as Guam, shall be recognized in every other court within the United States. Below is the actual text of this provision.
“The Acts of the legislature of any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States , or copies thereof, shall be authenticated by affixing the seal of such State, Territory or Possession thereto.
The records and judicial proceedings of any court of any such State, Territory or Possession, or copies thereof, shall be proved or admitted in other courts within the United States and its Territories and Possessions by the attestation of the clerk and seal of the court annexed, if a seal exists, together with a certificate of a judge of the court that the said attestation is in proper form.
Such Acts, records and judicial proceedings or copies thereof, so authenticated, shall have the same full faith and credit in every court within the United States and its Territories and Possessions as they have by law or usage in the courts of such State, Territory or Possession from which they are taken.”
19 GCA §8318. Residence of Parties
(a) A divorce or dissolution of marriage may be granted if one (1) of the parties has been a resident of Guam for at least ninety (90) days immediately preceding the filing of a complaint for divorce, or dissolution of marriage. For purposes of this Section, a person shall be deemed a resident if one (1) of the parties has been assigned with the U.S. Military to a unit on Guam or a ship home-ported in Guam for at least ninety (90) days immediately preceding the filing of a complaint for divorce or dissolution of marriage or if one (1) of the parties is physically present in Guam for at least ninety (90) days immediately preceding the filing of a complaint for divorce or dissolution of marriage. Physical presence by one of the parties in Guam for a period of ninety (90) days prior to filing of the action for divorce or dissolution of marriage shall give rise to a conclusive presumption of compliance with this Section.
(b) If both parties consent in writing to a divorce or dissolution of their marriage, a divorce or dissolution may be granted if one of the parties has resided in Guam for at least seven (7) days immediately preceding the filing of the complaint.
19 GCA §8319. Residence, no presumption of jurisdiction
(a) In actions for dissolution of marriage, neither the domicile nor residence of the husband shall be deemed to be the domicile or residence of the wife.
For the purposes of such an action, each may have a separate domicile or residence depending upon proof of the fact and not upon legal presumptions.
Physical presence in Guam for ninety (90) days next preceding the commencement of the action shall give rise to a conclusive presumption of residence in Guam as required by §8318 of this Chapter.
Allegations and proof of residence or other compliance with the requirements of §8318 of this Chapter shall be pled or proved in any divorce or dissolution of marriage granted upon the consent of the Defendant, and the court shall make findings as to residency of any party to a divorce or dissolution of marriage or as to compliance with the requirements of §8318 of this Chapter in any divorce or dissolution of marriage granted upon the consent of the Defendant.
Residency must be pled and proved in all divorces or other actions for dissolutions of marriage.
Only the parties (i.e., the husband or wife) or the court can raise the issue of or object to the jurisdiction of the Superior Court of Guam in an action for divorce or dissolution of marriage, residence of the parties, or other compliance with §8318 of this Chapter in any case even where the defendant has consented to the divorce or dissolution of marriage.
The Superior Court of Guam is not presumed to have jurisdiction over any action for divorce or dissolution of marriage which may be filed in the Superior Court of Guam because the defendant consents.
(b) All consents to a divorce or dissolution of marriage must be acknowledged or verified before a notary public or other officer authorized to administer oaths within the United States if signed in the United States, acknowledged or verified before a consular officer of the United States or other United States official authorized to take oaths if signed outside the United States, or have a notarized acknowledgement or verification by a foreign notary which is authenticated by a United States consular officer.”
8320. Default, When Allowed
No dissolution of marriage can be granted upon the uncorroborated statement, admission or testimony of the parties in any contested action for dissolution of marriage, but the court must require proof of the facts alleged. In the event of uncontested, consent or default divorce actions, the court may grant a divorce based upon the verified complaint of the Plaintiff or Petitioner if it appears to be in the interests of justice. Any corroboration or evidence which the court may require in default, consent, or other uncontested divorces shall be in the form of sworn ffidavits.
This this site is provided for information purposes only. Laws change and are subject to court interpretation. None of the information on this site should be construed as legal advice. Any persons contemplating a Guam divorce should contact a reputable attorney prior to taking any action or making any divorce plans. Neither this site nor anyone associated with this site shall be held liable for use of any of this information or decisions based on this information.