Is Your Spouse a Foreign Citizen? You Need a Cross Border Prenup: The Jonas / Turner Custody Battle 

The dissolution of any marriage is a complex and emotionally charged ordeal, but the complications tend to multiply when international borders become a factor. The recent highly publicized divorce of celebrities Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner illustrates couples’ challenges when navigating cross-border separations. Their case, which involves custody arrangements spanning different continents, underscores the importance of comprehensive legal preparation, especially for international couples.

Considering a cross-border prenup is highly advised for New Jersey residents with foreign spouses or aspirations to build a life beyond U.S. borders. This document can provide a structure for financial arrangements and create a clear picture of a couple’s intentions before children enter the picture.

The Jonas/Turner Divorce: An International Case Study

The divorce of Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner is a compelling case study in the complexities of international separations. The couple’s children hold dual nationality, with Jonas originating from the U.S. and Turner being a British citizen. During divorce proceedings, a dispute arose regarding the children’s habitual residence, with Turner seeking their return to England while, according to her, Jonas contested, refusing to release their passports.

Though Jonas denied these allegations, Turner invoked international treaties in her lawsuit against him, citing “wrongful retention” of the children under the terms of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a treaty signed by the U.S. and the U.K. After mediation, the former couple ultimately agreed on dual custody, with the children spending equal time with each of their parents in their respective home countries.

How a Cross Border Prenuptial Agreement Can Help You

While getting a prenuptial agreement is wise for every couple, this legal agreement takes on heightened significance for international marriages like that of Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner. When spouses hail from different nations, a prenup becomes essential in establishing clear guidelines regarding property, finances, and other legal matters spanning potentially divergent legal systems. This is especially critical when dual citizenship and habitual residence considerations come into play.

As in standard divorces, custody arrangements in cross-border separations address where and with whom the children will live and visitation rights for the non-custodial parent in the event of a divorce or separation. These arrangements are typically determined based on the best interests of the child at the time when the decision is made. However, while a prenup may not solely determine custody outcomes, it can provide a clear record of the couple’s mutual understanding regarding their children’s future living arrangements.

Postnuptial Agreements for Existing Marriages

If you’re marrying a non-US citizen, signing an international prenup is the best way to protect your future. However, if you’re already married and planning children or are considering moving outside the U.S. with your children, the next best option is to sign a postnuptial agreement. Like a prenuptial agreement, a postnup outlines how assets, debts, and other financial matters will be divided in the event of a divorce, separation, or the death of one of the spouses. Postnups can be particularly useful for couples who did not create a prenuptial agreement before marriage or for those who have experienced significant changes in their financial situation during their marriage.

For international marriages, cross-border postnups are tailored for couples with ties to different countries. These agreements address the unique legal and jurisdictional issues that can arise when spouses from different nations are involved. They may cover matters such as the division of property in different countries, child custody arrangements if the couple plans to move internationally, and how international laws will be applied in case of a divorce. In general, international postnuptial agreements are crucial for protecting both spouses’ interests in the case of potential cross-border disputes.

Prenuptial Agreements in New Jersey

For New Jersey residents considering postnups or prenups with a foreign spouse, the state’s laws surrounding these legal agreements can also be applied to international marriages. The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) is a legal framework that provides guidelines and rules for creating, enforcing, and interpreting prenuptial agreements. The UPAA was first proposed by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) in 1983, and it has been adopted in some form by many states in the U.S. In 1988, New Jersey enacted its version of UPAA, which encompasses various aspects, including:

  • Determining both spouses’ rights and responsibilities concerning joint and individual property, regardless of when or where it was acquired.
  • Granting the authority to engage in property-related activities, such as buying, selling, using, transferring, or managing it.
  • Addressing the division of assets in separation, divorce, death, or any other specified event.
  • Allowing for the modification or potential elimination of spousal support as outlined in the agreement.
  • Providing provisions for the establishment of wills, trusts, or other arrangements to execute the terms of the agreement.
  • Specifying ownership rights about the death benefit from a life insurance policy.
  • Defining the choice of law that governs the construction and interpretation of the premarital agreement.
  • Any other pertinent matters encompassing personal rights and obligations, as long as they do not infringe upon public policy.

The Role of an International Family Law Attorney

Creating and enforcing prenuptial agreements across diverse legal jurisdictions presents a unique set of challenges for international couples. However, having the right legal counsel can make a significant difference. International family law attorneys possess in-depth knowledge of domestic and international legal systems. They can bring specialized advice and guidance, leading to the most efficient process. A New Jersey family lawyer can assist in the following ways:

  • Craft legally binding prenuptial or postnuptial agreements tailored to the couple’s international circumstances.
  • Offer crucial insights into relevant international treaties and laws.
  • Assist in the interpretation and application of legal documents across different jurisdictions.
  • Mediate, negotiate, or litigate disputes on behalf of their clients in international legal proceedings.
  • Navigate potential obstacles of cross-border child custody arrangements.
  • Advise on property division matters, particularly when assets are located in multiple countries.
  • Ensure compliance with legal requirements for immigration and residency in different jurisdictions.

Speak to a New Jersey Family Lawyer Today

Facing the legal hurdles that often come with cross-border relationships requires a steady hand and a seasoned guide. At the Zeigler Law Group, LLC, we offer pragmatic solutions with a global perspective. Let us help you cross this bridge of uncertainty so you can feel confident about your family’s future. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation with our knowledgeable legal team by calling 732-361-4827 or submitting our contact form here.

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Sonya K, Zeigler, Esq. and her team have a well-earned reputation for committed and fierce legal representation. Our firm is here to provide you with the best possible guidance. Call Zeigler Law Group, LLC, at 732-361-4827 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Tom’s River, Red Bank, Princeton, and Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.

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