The road to divorce is not always straightforward. Some spouses decide to separate while still living together, but others will enter divorce proceedings after years of living apart—sometimes after one spouse has moved to a different state. Divorces involving spouses living in different states are often more complicated than those filed by spouses who live in the same community.
How to Determine Which Court Has Jurisdiction Over Your Divorce
Couples can only file for a divorce in the state and county that has jurisdiction to hear the case. However, you do not necessarily have to file in the state that issued your marriage license or even the one in which you currently live. The jurisdiction for your divorce case will depend on both spouses’ locations and how long each one has lived there.
While the divorce process is much the same in every state, the specific rules and requirements vary depending on the jurisdiction. For example, you may be compelled to file your divorce in a specific state if:
- You do not meet residency requirements. Each state has a minimum length of time that a spouse must live there before he or she can get a divorce in the state. Usually, only one spouse will need to meet the residency requirement, and that spouse will have to file the paperwork for the divorce to be heard. If you move to Rhode Island and do not meet the residency requirement, you may only be eligible to file in the state where you and your spouse cohabitated.
- Your spouse is first to file. If two different states are eligible to have jurisdiction over a marriage, the state that takes jurisdiction will be the state where a divorce petition is first filed. This could give the filing spouse an advantage in a contested divorce, since he or she will not have to travel as far to participate in hearings and the trial. The out-of-state spouse may also have to hire an attorney in the state where the divorce is pending instead of using an attorney from his or her home state.
- Your children live in another state. If your children attend school in the state where your spouse lives and your spouse meets residency requirements, filing in your spouse’s state may be less stressful for the children. However, you should understand the state’s requirements regarding child support, child custody agreements, and spousal support.
If you and your spouse meet residency requirements for different states, the divorce lawyers at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can advise you of the benefits of filing for divorce in either state. Please get in touch with our legal team via our online contact form, so we can help you make choices that will protect your future.