Can you file for divorce in California when you and your spouse live in Nevada? The answer is probably not! Almost every state, except Alaska, South Dakota, and Washington have strict residency requirements to file divorce in that state. In other words, if you live in California but want to file for divorce in another state, your spouse must have been a resident of that other state for a certain amount of time.

What if you are in the military? Military personnel often live in separate states in relation to their spouse. As a result, people in the military often wonder whether they can file for divorce in another state. Living apart in different states can cause confusion when trying to file for divorce. With this in mind, you can file for divorce in another state only if you or your spouse meet the residency requirements of that state.

“After a 2 year legal separation, my wife and I decided neither us of really wanted to stay married and so we filed for divorce. We had been married in California where I still live, but my wife moved to New York. A People’s Choice made the process very easy.” Trino W.
“Although I live in Alabama, A People’s Choice helped me file a divorce in California. My wife had lived there with our 2 children for over a year. Their online interview is so easy to use and they sent me all my paperwork electronically. Super easy process and great staff!” Harold J.

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State Residency Requirements to File For Divorce in Another State

The residency requirements required to file for divorce vary from state-to-state. Some states require people to have lived in the state for at least one year before filing for divorce. Some states have stricter requirements and require a moving party to have resided in a county within the state for six consecutive months before filing for divorce. If you want to file divorce in another state, you need to be aware of several important concepts. First, as a new state resident, be ready to provide documentation to prove you meet the residency requirements. Secondly, if you or your spouse just moved to a new state, one of you will have to meet the residency requirements to file for divorce.

If you want to file for divorce in California, there are two separate California divorce residency requirements. First, one of the parties, either you or your spouse, must have lived in California for the past  six months. Secondly, the party filing the divorce must have lived at least three months in the California county where you plan to file divorce. In California, however, these residency requirements do not apply if you want to file a legal separation.

The grounds for filing for divorce also vary from state-to-state. California is a no-fault state. This means a party does not have to prove “fault” to file for divorce. In some southern states, a moving party may have to prove a specific harm to show grounds to file for divorce.

Choice of Divorce Law

If both parties live in different state, it may be worth taking the time to look at the divorce laws in your state and your spouse’s to determine if there is a favorable choice of law. This is particularly important if both parties have lived in both states at various times during their marriage. How your state handles divorce issues may greatly vary in comparison to your spouse’s state. Filing for divorce in your spouse’s state may be more favorable for both of you. However, in order for a court to be able to make orders in a divorce case, the court must have both subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. This will be further explained below. If the couples has children, the court will also consider the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

When There's a Race to the Courthouse!

When more than one state has jurisdiction, there may be a race to the courthouse! Most states agree that the first to serve the divorce petition has priority, Some states, however, such as Texas, have decided that the first person to file the action gives the court jurisdiction.

If you want to file divorce in another state, there are two important legal concepts that you need to understand:

Personal jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction means the court’s power over a person or individual.  In comparison, subject matter jurisdiction is the court’s power over the subject. An example of personal jurisdiction would be when a California court orders one spouse who lives in California to pay spousal support to a spouse who lives out-of-state in Florida.

Subject matter jurisdiction

Subject matter jurisdiction means the court has the authority over the topic, subject or legal issue that is put before it. Examples of subject-matter jurisdiction include, for instance, dissolving a marriage, making order on custody, visitation and child support and dividing the assets and debt.

For example, California community property laws require marital assets to be divided equally among divorcing spouses. More than forty states are known as equitable distribution states. In such states, assets are divided to make sure a fair division of family property. State laws also differ on issues of child custody and support, spousal support, and dividing retirement assets.

California’s Exception for Same-Sex Couples

If you are a same-sex spouse, you will have to research whether your state laws will allow you to file for divorce in the state you live in. Though same-sex marriage discrimination has been outlawed, some states still have laws that do not recognize the marital status of same-sex couples. In California, if same-sex parties were married in California but live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages, this is the one exception that does not require the couple to meet residency requirements. California allows a same-sex couple to file to dissolve their marriage or domestic partnership in the county they were married if they live in a jurisdiction that does not recognize and will not dissolve their marriage.

Enforcing Your Divorce Order From Another State

So long as your divorce was done legally, it will be honored in most states. States reciprocate laws on most matters. This means that not only will your divorce be recognized, but child support or spousal support orders can also be enforced in another state. In California, there is a special process to register an out-of-state child support order or an out-of-state custody order in a California court. California law allows for enforcement of child custody as well as child support orders that have been made by other states. There are procedures, however, set out in the California Family Code that must be followed. Once the correct paperwork has been filed, a California judge can then enforce an out-of-state custody order as well as an out-of-state child support order.

Contact A People’s Choice for more information about filing for divorce, or registering an out-of-state child support or custody order. We can help you navigate through California courts without having to hire an expensive attorney. Call us today at 800-747-2780.

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