Before you can file for divorce in your state, you will need to meet residency requirements for that state. Some counties also have residency requirements. Where you file for divorce may have a big impact on the outcome of your case. Therefore, it is important to be thoughtful and consider where you are able to file because it may make more sense to file in one state instead of another. A skilled divorce attorney can help you strategize to determine the best place to file for divorce.
How Long Do I Have to Live There?
Are You a Resident?
Before you file for divorce, it’s important to check your state residency requirements. All states require that you, and sometimes your former spouse as well, live in a specific state for a certain period of time before being able to file in that state or jurisdiction.
There are a variety of residency requirements involved in filing for divorce depending on the state and the circumstances. For example, some states do not require any specific length of residency for people to file for divorce if both of the parties live in the state. Other states will allow people to divorce in the state upon moving there if they were married in that state. Similarly, some states will not require a specific amount of time for residency if the breakdown of the marriage occurred in the state. States that require a certain length of time for residency vary in the amount of time that one or both spouses must live there. Some of these states require 45 days of residency, while others require 365 days or more. Generally, the longer time periods apply when only one spouse lives in the state.
Many counties also have residency requirements that must be fulfilled before residents can file for divorce in those areas. However, not all counties have these requirements. In many places either spouse can file in the county where either spouse resides. Some states require divorce petitioners to file in the county where the other spouse resides. The residency requirements for counties can range from no minimum, to ten days, to 90 days.
These residency requirements do not necessarily apply to service members; military divorces apply a different jurisdictional rule.
Residency requirements are typically in place to help courts establish jurisdiction over the parties. A court needs to have jurisdiction in order to issue decisions that affect the parties. Part of the divorce process requires establishing residency. Generally this is a fairly straightforward process, and it is not usually difficult to prove that you live in a particular state and/or county. However, failure to properly establish residency in this context may result in the divorce case being rejected or dismissed. There are a few states that have particular requirements for formally establishing residency that need to be satisfied. For example, in Nevada parties must provide an affidavit from a Nevada resident attesting to personal knowledge of the petitioning spouse meeting the residency requirement.
These requirements also help to ensure an element of geographic and legal fairness in the proceedings. For example, if parties could file wherever they wanted, the petitioning party could simply find the state with the most favorable divorce laws for their interests. These requirements are intended to balance the rights of petitioners to access the legal system, but also to make sure that the process is not too inconvenient for either of the parties.