Divorce in Mexico
Mexico used to be the divorce capital of Latin America back in the day. Like the Dominican Republic is today, back in the 1960’s or so, Mexico was the place that North Americans used to flock to to quickly get out of undesired marriages. It was not unheard of that the entire process from married to divorced could take a foreigner one hour to complete. But those days are over.
These days, an individual has to prove Mexican residency for at least six months prior to obtaining a divorce in Mexico. And until recently, they had to prove grounds.
You see, in Latin America, Mexico inclusive, divorce is still frowned upon due largely to the influence of the Catholic church. But in Mexico, the laws have relaxed in recent years. Even though Latin Americans still overwhelming identify as Roman Catholics, the church’s influence on social mores and decorum is definitely waning.
The new requirements remove the necessity of proving grounds and makes Mexico strictly “no fault.” But there is also a pragmatic reason to lift the requirement to prove grounds. Judicial economy. It had just gotten overwhelming, with so many divorce cases languishing on the court’s dockets for years! And this was to the detriment of women and children. Because in Mexico, it is still a very patriarchal society. Men rule. And without the benefit of a divorce decree that awards a woman, say, equitable distribution, often times, she is impoverished as a result of the case sitting on the dockets for so long, waiting for her to prove her grounds so that she can get her equitable distribution.
A recent New York Times article discloses some problems with Mexico’s recently revamped matrimonial/divorce laws. Now that the laws have moved to no fault, the problem of equitable distribution, and even custody, is still acute because often times, judges do not decide the issue at the time of the decree. They defer it for future determination. This puts women at a tremendous economic disadvantage.
One way that lawyers are combating that problem, is they are bringing family court actions first to determine issues of custody and support. After that aspect has been adjudicated, only then do they file for divorce, at which point they would seek to have the family court decrees incorporated into the divorce decree.
Reporting by Cristobal Delgado, Mexico City