Over many years, Guam has experienced warfare over the question of how to manage the end of troubled marriages, whether for long time island residents or for military and other Americans living in Asia who simply want a speedy divorce. Players in this drama have included the legislature, the judiciary, the island’s growing legal community and the still-dominant Catholic church, which continues to view divorce as a mortal sin.
But over the years, a consensus has developed, moving on from the once strict ‘fault’ requirement that divorcing couples prove in court misconduct by the other spouse to the more relaxed nearly ‘no fault’ standard that prevails in many other U.S. jurisdictions, making ‘irreconcilable differences’ sufficient to grant a divorce . That’s been the biggest change in divorces sought by long time Guam residents.
In between though, was a ‘wild west’ period, in which thousands of off-island divorces were granted, often without the presence on Guam by either party or even the knowledge of both parties.
Current law now requires off-island couples agree to the divorce in advance and that at least one of them travel to Guam for seven days to establish residency. The requirement was once 90 days. This likely satisfies no opponents to liberalized divorce, but appears to have drastically cut the number of such divorces to several hundred annually and likely boosted tourism revenues.
Attorney Bill Pesch has been representing divorce seekers since the 1990s.
“If you go back to the 1980s, Don Parkinson when he was a senator had this outrageous law that was