Guam Family Law Office's "Guam 7-Day Residency Divorces"
A "Guam 7-Day Residency Divorce" is ideal for married couples residing outside of Guam who wish to use the Guam Court system to obtain a United States divorce. Under Guam law, if both non-resident spouses consent to divorce on Guam, agree to the terms of the divorce, and if one spouse comes to Guam for a minimum stay of seven consecutive days and nights, they can obtain their divorce on the island.
Where in the world is Guam and what is its relation to the United States?
Guam is a small tropical island in the western Pacific located approximately 1,500 miles south of Tokyo, Japan and 1,500 miles east of Manila, Philippines. About 160,000 people reside on the 210 square-mile island. Officially, Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States. The island came under U.S. control in 1898, following Spain's defeat in the Spanish American War. All persons born on Guam are automatically U.S. citizens. Guam hosts an Air Force and Navy base and its tropical climate attracts nearly 1.5 million tourists a year.
Why get divorced in Guam?
For many people residing outside of Guam, the island has become a convenient place to pursue their divorce. The reasons for wanting to seek a divorce on Guam differ. For American civilian and military personnel living overseas, their host countries may not allow divorces, or the country's divorce procedures may be time-consuming, confusing, and/or expensive. For those couples residing within the United States, their state divorce laws may require lengthy waiting periods or require provisions distasteful to both parties.
Will other States recognize a Guam divorce?
The short answer to the first part of the question is "yes", unless perhaps you reside in one of the following states: California, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wisconsin. These states have adopted the Uniform Divorce Recognition Act (UDRA). This act governs the circumstances in which a divorce granted in one state will not be recognized by a state that has adopted the act. For the act to apply, both spouses must have been domiciled in the UDRA state at the time the out of state divorce was obtained. The term “domicile” means the person either maintained a residence in the UDRA state throughout the divorce or resided in the UDRA state for the previous 12 months leading up to the divorce and then resumed residing in the UDRA state within 18 months after obtaining the divorce.
Many legal experts doubt that this UDRA provision can be successfully enforced in a situation where both spouses consent in writing to an out-of-state divorce, as is required for a Guam 7-day divorce. This is because Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution and federal law, specifically, 28 United States Code, section 1738, both provide that authenticated judicial records from any State, Territory, or Possession "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." No test case to my knowledge has decided this issue. I do note that I have processed a number of divorces for residents of some of the 7 UDRA member states and have never been informed of any difficulties in having their divorces recognized. However, you should check with a family law attorney in your state to be sure. There should be no problem getting your Guam divorce recognized by the other 43 states.
(Please read the section entitled "Can Guam courts decide other issues concerning the divorce?" for a more thorough explanation of Guam's jurisdictional authority).
Will other countries recognize a Guam divorce?
Since Guam is a U.S. Territory, any country that recognizes a United States divorce will also recognize a Guam divorce. To be on the safe side, you should verify the validity of a Guam divorce with a legal expert in your home country. The Guam Family Law Office cannot guarantee that any other country will recognize a Guam divorce. Please note though, numerous couples residing in other countries have obtained Guam divorces.
If I live in a country other than the United States, how do I go about having my Guam divorce recognized in my home country?
What are the requirements for a "Guam 7-Day Residency Divorce"?
First, both you and your spouse must consent to the divorce and agree to file for divorce in Guam. You have two options for the type of divorce you may wish to obtain. You can choose to obtain only the divorce itself and resolve other issues, such as custody, support, and division of debts and assets, in another jurisdiction. Or, you can both enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement in which you make specific provisions for all the issues involved in the divorce. One of you must visit Guam for a period of seven consecutive days and nights. For most people pursuing a Guam divorce, this has proven to be an enjoyable experience. Guam is a well-known tourist destination. We have about 1.4 million people visit us each year. There is a wide variety and price selection for accommodations and car rentals. You will find plenty to keep yourself busy during your week's stay.
What if my spouse won't consent to a divorce?
To be candid, if one spouse doesn't agree to obtain a divorce in Guam, you will not be able to pursue your divorce on the island. The 7-day Guam divorce is ONLY available when both parties agree to the divorce. If this does not meet your situation, the only other option is for you to live on Guam for 90 consecutive days. This would then make you eligible to file a contested divorce. This is not a realistic option for most people. I do not process such divorces. However, if this is an option you might consider, I'd be glad to refer you to other attorneys who may be able to assist you.
What if I don't know if my spouse will agree to a divorce?
Unfortunately, I’ve had several clients who retained me for a Guam divorce and after they had made full payment and I had prepared all the documents, their spouse refused to sign his/her consent. Under the legal services agreement, if this occurs the client forfeits his or her full payment. This is not a pleasant result. So now, I offer two possible alternatives for those who aren't sure if a spouse will cooperate. They are as follows:
1. If you only want a divorce and do not wish to have a settlement agreement, upon request and for the fee of $300*, I will prepare the one document the spouse needs to sign - the Appearance & Waiver form. If the spouse signs the A&W, we can then proceed with the divorce and I will credit the $300 towards the total fee. If the spouse doesn’t sign, the client is only out the $300 and not the total amount.
2. If you want a divorce with a settlement agreement,upon request and for the fee of $750*, I will prepare the two documents the spouse needs to sign - the Appearance & Waiver form and the Marital Settlement Agreement. If the spouse signs the documents, we can then proceed with the divorce and I will credit the $750 towards the total fee. If the spouse doesn’t sign, the client is only out the $750 and not the total amount.
* If you pay by credit card, there is a 3 1/2% processing fee. If you wire the funds, there is a $20 fee.
How long does it take to obtain a divorce in Guam?
Realistically, your divorce should be completed within four to six weeks after you depart Guam following your one-week stay. Once the documents are filed with the court, a judge has to be assigned, then the matter will be set down for a hearing. The hearing is usually scheduled for a date a few weeks into the future. For this reason, be wary of attorneys who promise to expedite your divorce.Why should I choose Attorney Bill Pesch and the Guam Family Law Office to help me pursue my Guam divorce?
For several reasons, including my familiarity with Guam; my many years of legal experience on the island; the fact that family law is my specialty and not just a sideline practice; and because in my legal practice I strongly emphasize candor, integrity, and honesty when it comes to dealing with my clients. In addition, because I grew up in a military family, I have a special empathy for military personnel and their dependents.
Guam has been my home since 1976. I have a long history of community involvement spanning participation in politics, teaching, historical research and writing, and working with island youth through the Cub Scout program. I am proud of Guam and proud to call it my home. Also, when you retain my firm's services you retain an attorney with 35 years of legal experience on the island. For the last 23 years, my law practice has specialized solely in family law. Many lawyers spread themselves too thin and offer services in a wide variety of areas and therefore never develop a specialty in any one area. When you have a specific medical need, you seek out a doctor who specializes in your area of need. You wouldn't go to a general practitioner if you need heart surgery. The same should be true when you require family law services - don't settle for an attorney who does a little family law, along with a little personal injury, along with a little corporate work, along with a little civil law, etc. Don't gamble with yours and your family's future! Retain a legal expert in family law. Retain the Guam Family Law Office.
Can military personnel pursue divorces on Guam? Yes, many military personnel and their dependents who either reside on Guam, or in neighboring countries, have used my services to obtain a divorce. Upon request, I have prepared settlement agreements for many of these clients. However, I call to your attention the fact that I no longer prepare orders dividing military retirement benefits. As a result of recent changes to Federal laws and regulations, the manner of dividing these benefits has become much more complex. Clients can have qualified experts prepare the order dividing military retirement beneifts and I will be glad to submit the order to our court for the judge's signature. However, my office will no longer prepare the order.
How much will a "Guam 7-Day Residency Divorce" cost?
If you and your spouse choose to pursue only the divorce in Guam and address all other matters, such as custody, support, and the distribution of debts and assets in another jurisdiction, the cost is $1,675* plus mailing fee***. This includes both the legal fee and the court costs. If you and your spouse wish to obtain a Guam divorce and to resolve all outstanding issues, then I will also prepare a detailed Divorce and Property Settlement Agreement incorporating the terms of the agreement between you and your spouse. The cost is $1,975** plus mailing fee***. Of course, your airfare, hotel, car rental, and other expenses associated with your one-week stay on Guam are not included in these prices. Notary fees are also extra. On Guam, notary fees are $10 per signature and require a photo ID.
* If you pay by credit card, there is an additional processing fee of 3 1/2%.
** If you pay by credit card, there is an additional processing fee of 3 1/2%
***The mailing fee for priority U.S. mail is $25 and $100 for international FedEx shipping.
How and when do I pay for the divorce?
You have several payment options. You can pay by credit card, cashier's check, money order, or through a direct bank transfer. I no longer accept payments through Western Union. You must be make full payment before I begin work on your divorce. If you pay by credit card, simply call my office at 1-671-472-8472 and my staff will assist you in processing the credit card charge. Please be aware that once I have drafted your documents, no refund is possible, even if your spouse changes his/her mind. Therefore, be sure that your spouse will fully cooperate with the Guam divorce before you make payment to my office. If you have any doubt that your spouse will cooperate, please read the above section entitled "What if I don't know if my spouse will agree to a divorce?"How can I proceed with pursuing a "Guam 7-Day Residency Divorce" and what is the process?
That's easy! Here are the details:
1. Click on the "Arranging a Free Consultation" button on my homepage and complete the simple questionnaire. This will give me your contact information, some basic information about your marriage, and provide me with an idea of the probable type of divorce you may wish to pursue. Under the "Comment" block, provide me with some details of your situation and any questions you may have. (If you should experience any difficulty with this function, simply email me your question(s) at: GuamFamilyLawOffice@gmail.com.
2. If necessary, we can arrange a telephone or skype consultation. This can be a bit tricky because of the time difference between your location and Guam. To get an idea of the time difference between your home and Guam, please refer to the Guam date and time information located in various sections of this Website. If phone or skype contact is not possible, we can communicate via email.
3. Once I know which divorce option you choose, I will inform you which of the three worksheets you need to complete. (See the box entitled "Which of the three divorce worksheets should I complete?" for details). Once completed, scan and email your worksheet back to me. Be sure to answer all the questions because I will use the worksheet to draft your divorce documents. My documents will only be as accurate as your worksheet.
4. Once I've reviewed your worksheet and together we have finalized it, I will email you a Legal Services Agreement and request that you make payment. The Legal Services Agreement specifies the services I will perform for you and the cost of the services. Simply sign and scan the Agreement back to me and make your payment. I will then sign the Agreement and scan the fully executed Legal Services Agreement back to you.
5. Once you have completed the worksheet, signed the Legal Services Agreement, and made the payment, I will draft all the necessary documents and email them to you for review. Usually, the documents will be prepared within five working days. [For an additional $325 I will prepare the documents within 24 hours]. Together we will make any necessary corrections/changes and finalize the documents. Please note that once you have approved the finalized documents, any request for future changes will incur additional legal fees billed at $225 per hour. This includes requested changes by the other spouse.
6. You and your spouse will need to sign the divorce documents. I will give you detailed instructions on who needs to sign each document. Please note that some of the documents will need to be notarized by a U.S. notary public. In the U.S., all duly authorized notaries public can notarize your documents. If either you or your spouse live overseas, arrangements will need to made with either the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate Office to notarize the documents. If you are in the military, the legal office on base probably has a notary available to assist you. Whoever comes to Guam can sign and notarize documents at my office if this is more convenient. The notary fee is $10 and requires a photo ID. Please note that I do have any contact with your spouse. It is your responsibility to get your spouse to sign the document(s). Once the document(s) have been finalized, you will have 90 days to obtain your spouse's signature and to foward the original(s) to me. If after 90 days I am not in receipt of the document(s) I have the option of closing your file and any payment that you have made will be forfeited.
7. Once the documents have been properly signed and notarized, either you or your spouse will need to come to Guam for the 7-day residency requirement. It is very important that the spouse who won't be visiting Guam sign and notarize the necessary document(s) before the visiting party departs for Guam. This is because you don't want to spend considerable time and money for nothing. The visiting spouse should spend seven consecutive days and nights on Guam*.
8. Before you or your spouse arrives on Guam, please set up an appointment to meet with me. During our meeting, I will have you or your spouse sign a "Declaration of Guam Residency" and a "Declaration Requesting Entry of an Immediate Final Decree of Divorce". Neither of these documents needs to be notarized.
9. Once the 7-day residency requirement has been met, the visiting spouse may then depart Guam. My office will immediately file all the divorce documents with the Guam Superior Court.
10. I will advise you once I have been informed of the hearing date.
11. I will attend the hearing and advise you when it has been completed.
12. It will take a few days after the hearing for the Court to forward the finalized documents to my office. Once I have them in hand, I will mail them to you and email you that they are on their way. NOTE: If you wish for my office to mail your spouse's copies in a separate envelope, there will be an additional $35 charge if we are mailing to the U.S. and $100 for international mailing.
* The Guam law only mentions a stay of seven days. The law is unclear whether a person must also stay seven nights. Because the matter has never been settled by our courts, I recommend that clients stay seven nights. If you choose to stay only 6 nights, you do so solely at your own risk and you will not hold me accountable if a court subsequently rules that parties must stay seven nights.
Can Guam courts decide other issues concerning the Divorce?
The short, but qualified answer to this question is "no". If neither party lives in Guam, a Guam court can only grant the divorce. A Guam court has no legal authority to decide other matters such as child custody, child and spousal support, and the division of property and debts. HOWEVER, many clients wish to address these issues. I can prepare a Marital Settlement Agreement that includes these subjects. If a question over the distribution of property and debts should arise in the future, most state courts will decide the matters under principles of contract law rather than domestic law. Please note that any matter involving children, such as custody, support, and visitation can always be revisited by a court with jurdisdiction since judges must act in the best interests of the children. Before deciding on whether to request a Divorce and Marital Settlement Agreement you should consult with an attorney in your own jurisdiction to discuss whether the provisions are enforceable by your local courts. No guarantees are made that these agreements can be enforced in your home state/country.
Which of the three divorce worksheets should I complete?
First, you must decide whether you will pursue only the divorce, or pursue the divorce and address all other matters such as custody, support and the distribution of debts and assets. Once you decide this, you will need to complete the appropriate worksheet. If you are opting to seek only a divorce, click on "7-Day Divorce Only Worksheet". If you wish to pursue the divorce and resolve all other matters, you have two choices. If you have children and you wish to address the issue of custody and support, then complete the worksheet entitled "7-Day Divorce with Children Worksheet". If no children are involved, then complete the "7-Day Divorce Without Children Worksheet". I cannot proceed with the preparation of your divorce documents until you complete the appropriate worksheet. I highly recommend that you and your spouse complete the worksheet together to reduce the chances of any future misunderstandings.
>Click here to get started with a worksheet
Will either my spouse or I need to sign any document(s)?
Yes. The spouse filing for divorce will need to sign the Complaint for Divorce and the other spouse will need to sign an Appearance & Waiver form. If you request the preparation of a Marital Settlement Agreement, both you and your spouse will need to sign the Agreement. Although all three documents should be notarized, only the Appearance & Waiver form MUST be notarized in front of a U.S. notary public. In the U.S., any notary public who is certified by a State as a notary public can notarize the documents. If you or your spouse is living outside of the United States, the documents will need to be notarized by an official in the U.S. Embassy or a U.S. Consulate office. They will also notarize documents for non-U.S. citizens. Most U.S. military bases abroad have U.S. notary publics available as well. The spouse visiting Guam will sign two additional documents, a "Declaration of Guam Residency" and a "Declaration Requesting Entry of an Immediate Final Decree of Divorce". However, these do not need to be notarized and can be signed at my office when the visiting spouse and I meet.
What can I expect when I come to Guam?
I often describe Guam as America with a Pacific Island/Asian twist. You will feel like you are in the United States but encounter people and have experiences that will remind you that Guam has a proud island heritage and is quite close to Asia. We are a little more "laid-back" than our U.S. counterparts and proud of it! We don't live in grass huts and parade around half-naked - except maybe when we are at the beach. For the most part, attire is rather conservative, but practical for the climate. Most of our houses are constructed of concrete to withstand typhoon winds. Unfortunately, we have traffic jams during morning and evening rush hour, although it pales in comparison to most U.S. cities. The tourist village of Tumon is located on a beautiful bay dotted with world-class hotels and restaurants. Because we are surrounded by water, there are many types of water activities such as swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, fishing, windsurfing, etc. Guam has several dance clubs and many bars. Guam also has an edgier side for those who are interested in wilder pursuits. You might want to google, "Guam nightlife options" to get an idea of the entertainment varieties and venues.
Geographically, the northern end of Guam is relatively flat. The majority of the population lives in the northern half of the island. The capital village of Hagatna is located in the middle portion of the island on the west coast. The cultural heart of the island beats in the southern half of Guam. Colorful villages hug the coastline while high hills and plunging valleys make for dramatic backdrops. The pace of life is definitely slower here. Most southern residents are indigenous Chamorros, whose presence on the island goes back some 4,500 years. On the weekends you'll frequently see huge outdoor parties with locals celebrating birthdays, weddings, or a fiesta dedicated to the village's patron saint. Chamorros are known for their hospitality, generosity, and love of food. During your week stay on Guam, please be sure that you tour the south. You won't be disappointed.
For those who want to learn more about Guam, both past and present, I encourage you to visit the internet site for "guampedia.com". This is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of Guam's history and culture. You can also view the attached film produced by the Guam Visitors' Bureau.
I offer one note of caution. Like any other community in the United States, crime exists. Tourism often attracts petty thieves. As you would anywhere, exercise common sense when walking around and touring. Lock your car and don't leave valuables unguarded and in plain sight. Lock passports, extra money, and travel documents in your hotel safe.
Where can I stay while residing in Guam and where can I rent a car?
Guam offers a wide variety of accommodations, including upscale hotels, such as the Hilton, Westin, and Sheraton, along with more modest choices. You can often arrange hotel/car packages. A number of residents are also now renting private accomodations through Air BNB. Please read over the reviews carefully before making such a reservation. I caution you from reserving a place that lacks several positive reviews. The main tourist area is located in Tumon and Tamuning. My office is located in the capitol village of Hagatna. Tumon and Tamuning are only about 3-4 miles away from my office. (Guam is approximately 28 miles long by 8 miles at the widest). Public transportation is not well developed, so if you really want to get out and see the island, you will probably want to rent a car. Hertz and Avis, along with other car rental options, are available. We drive on the right-hand side of the road, like the rest of the United States. We do have taxis, but I warn you that they are VERY expensive. I strongly suggest that if you use a taxi, hail it from one of the nicer hotels and try to determine the rate before you get into the taxi. Another very popular transportation option is purchasing a reasonably priced day-pass for one of the numerous tourists' buses that ferry tourists around the island to the main shopping and sightseeing spots. Try googling "TripAdvisor Guam hotels" and TripAdvisor"Guam hotel car packages". This should give you a good idea of what is available in the way of accommodations and car rentals.
Although Guam does not have Uber, we do have Stroll Guam that is very similiar to Uber. You can download the app at: strollguam.com. The cost is about half the cost of regular taxis.
Where and what can I eat during my stay in Guam?
Wow, the sky is the limit! Guam sits at the crossroads of Western and Asian cuisine. Along with many of the chains, such as Tony Romas, Chilis , Ruby Tuesday, Fridays, Outback, McDonalds, Wendy's, Taco Bell etc, etc, we have many fine local options. Try googling "Trip Advisor Guam restaurants" to get a good idea of your dining options. Both the Micronesian Mall and the Guam Premium Outlet have food courts offering a wide variety of food choices. I guarantee you won't starve on Guam! We love food!!
What can I do during my stay on Guam?
Lots!!! Guam is surrounded by water - east of the island is the Pacific Ocean and west is the Philippine Sea. Consequently, water activities are very popular. Again, try googling "Trip Advisor, Guam attractions" or "organized tours on Guam" to get an idea of what is available and at what cost. Guam is a scuba-diving mecca. This is a perfect place to get certified if this is something you've considered. Google "scuba diving lessons on Guam" to explore this option. Parker and Kim Van Hecke are certified scuba instructors and would love to assist those who want to get scuba certified. You can reach them at 1-671-488-5420.
What is the weather like on Guam?
Guam is a tropical island. The normal daily temperature fluctuation is between 78 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Our two main "seasons" are "wet season" (from about June through November) and "dry season" (from about December to May). However, it can rain any time of the year. Unless there is a major storm brewing, rain showers tend to be relatively brief. Guam sits in the "typhoon belt". Although typhoons can form at any time, the usual typhoon season is from August through October. These also happen to be the rainiest and most humid months.
The attire on Guam is usually casual. The sun is very intense, so bring cool clothing and protect yourself from the sun. If you plan to get out and explore the island, you will want to bring walking shoes, sun block, and mosquito spray. Don't forget your swimsuit!!!
What if I have other questions?
Simple, just email us with your question(s)!
This explanation sheet is provided for general information only and should not be interpreted as legal advice. You should discuss the specifics of your situation with a reputable attorney prior to taking any legal action. Neither this site nor anyone associated with this site shall be held liable for the use of the information contained in this document or for any decisions made based on the information provided herein.