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No jurisdiction to grant divorce

The court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to grant either party a divorce because both held a G-4 nonimmigrant visa, which does not indicate “an intent to indefinitely be a resident and domiciliary of Virginia subject to divorce jurisdiction.

Competing complaints

The parties have G-4 visas. A G-4 visa is a special, nonimmigration visa issued to foreign employees of certain international organizations such as the World Bank. Father works for the World Bank. The G-4 visa is valid as long as he works for the World Bank.

The parties are Kenyan citizens. They have three children. They have previously lived in South Africa then moved to the United States.

The parties separated in 2019. Father filed for divorce. Mother filed a counterclaim for divorce. They agreed to a custody and visitation order. The oldest child is now emancipated.

After father presented his case for divorce, mother moved to strike, arguing that father failed to prove the court had jurisdiction over the divorce complaint. The court took the motion under advisement. Mother then presented her claim and father challenged jurisdiction as well.


In Adoteye v. Adoteye, 32 Va. App. 221 (2000), the appeals court ruled that a G-4 visa “is ‘inconsistent with intent to become a permanent, bona fide resident and domiciliary of Virginia.” Both parties worked for the World Bank. When the marriage failed, they entered a consent order regarding custody and visitation the Fairfax County JRD court. Ms. Adoteye support her claim of being a Virginia resident by noting that she had a Virginia driver’s license and bank accounts, had Virginia registration on automobiles and had lived in Virginia for 12 years.

The appeals court noted that although her circumstances “presented a ‘persuasive package[,]’” the court concluded “those circumstances ‘ are also consistent with a transitory sojourn in Virginia.’”

The Adoteye court noted that Ms. Adoteye took no steps to “‘secure citizenship or an immigration visa.’”

The case before the court “is a close analogue to Adoteye.” But while the Adoteye court “held that a G-4 visa is inconsistent with Virginia domicile, it is not, alone, dispositive of jurisdiction.

The court heard mother’s corroborating witnesses at trial. However, they provided little testimony about domicile and “testified chiefly about the merits of the case – particularly, about Father’s treatment toward Mother. …

“Father’s claim of residency and domicile is weaker than Mother’s. His World Bank employment is the reason the family is in Virginia. He has a G-4 nonimmigrant visa, does not pay taxes in the United States, and has not even planned to seek an immigrant visa. He even discouraged Mother from seeking a nonimmigrant visa long prior to separation to protect his employment and visa status.”

Neither party met the residency requirements necessary for the court to assert subject matter jurisdiction over their divorce complaints. The court “cannot award a divorce to either party.”

The complaints are dismissed.

Lango v. Lango, Case No. CL-2019-13066, Oct. 22, 2020, Fairfax County Cir. Ct. (Oblon). Jack Maginnis, Razan Fayez for the parties. VLW 020-8-121, 9 pp.

VLW 020-8-121

Virginia Lawyers Weekly