Berman & Asbel, LLP

Does global mobility put weight of the world on expat couples?

Marriage takes work. Any couple that has stuck it out will likely tell you that. So many things can put stress on the partners. Moving away from the couple's hometown to another state has been known to throw a wrench into the works. Imagine what the tensions might be if you happen to become expatriates, moving yourselves and your family to a foreign country for work.

We're not talking about military service overseas. While that has its challenges there tends to be an American-based infrastructure in place to help. The same may not always be true for a family moving to a foreign land because of a private career opportunity.

The challenges of dealing with an unfamiliar culture, odd social dynamics among children and the pressures of work can all combine in unhealthy ways, and the marriage and the whole family can suffer. Regardless of the complexity of the situation, it is always important to seek help from an experienced attorney.

The causes of marital breakups are too many to count. But these days, as businesses respond to the demands of a global economy, some experts are attempting to see how globalization may be affecting couples.

The work of one expat researcher from SIM University in Singapore is due to be published next month in the Journal of Global Mobility. Despite the fact that her subject pool was relatively small, just 38 expat divorces, it covered 27 countries, creating an apparent abundance of data.

The stories were so diverse that pinning down specifics seemed difficult. But she reportedly concludes that the expat life has a way of on one hand magnifying existing marital problems, and adding new ones on the other.

Particular issues she identifies include trailing spouse loss of identity after a move; the lack of a support system among others in the expat community; and the excessive job and travel demands on the working spouse.

She also observes that the expat divorce situation can be made worse because of the international setting. Jurisdictional disputes can arise. Child custody and support enforcement can be extremely complex. Then there is the cost of relocation. And unlike the military, she says companies generally don't have programs in place to provide help.

To what extent all that may contribute to divorce isn't clear. What is clear is that it doesn't help.

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