Q. My sister is living abroad with her husband, who is a diplomat. She has been unhappy in her marriage and has recently been drinking too much. She was stopped for DUI last week and is worried that she is going to be sent home without her children even though she was not arrested. I am trying to reassure her that this will not happen because she stays home and cares for the children.
Should she just take the children and come home and file for divorce here?
A. Nothing is quite so straightforward in situations with diplomats. The same immunity that gave rise to her not getting prosecuted for her DUI stop may prevent her from leaving post with her children without her husband’s blessing. Even if she returns home with the children, she would then have a waiting period here before she could file for divorce. And, her husband probably has jurisdictional immunity when it comes to being served with a divorce or custody complaint from afar.
Further, regardless of whether she is the primary caretaker of her children, if her conduct could be seen as an embarrassment to the U.S. government, she can be sent home under an Early Return of Dependent order. It is less clear that she would be allowed to take her children – especially if the father is able to care for them (including hiring caretakers).
There are a large number of resources available to families living abroad. She should first seek assistance from “command” and try to resolve the conflict in her marriage through these channels. They will offer counseling as well as mediation if necessary. If she goes through these programs and still is unable to reconcile the marriage then she can request an advanced return for herself and the children citing that the command was unable to solve the problem. If she is lucky, in that process her husband will either help work on the marriage or else agree that she and the children are better off leaving. If he does not agree, it will be up to some governmental official to determine whether she can leave and take her children.
Your sister should seek help for her drinking so that she can show the government that her DUI was a one-time event in hopes they do not send her packing alone.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org