How Does Divorce Work if We Live in Different States?

Sometimes spouses live in different states for various different reasons, such as work-related reasons or due to separation.

When the decision is made to file for divorce, this would be termed an “interstate divorce”.  The state in which you should file (or the state in which your spouse should have filed) depends on several different factors, including in which states you and your spouse are located. Every state has rules that are unique to them, and not following the right rules may delay or prolong your divorce. 

All states have a residency requirement that must be met by at least one spouse before you can file papers for the dissolution of your marriage. Typically, the requirement is that one of you has resided in that state for either 3 to 12 months before filing for divorce. Each individual county in the state may have separate residency requirements, too. In California, you must have lived in California for at least six months, and it must be filed in the county in which you have lived for the last three months.

This could, however, still create jurisdictional issues because the court may not have jurisdiction over the other spouse. This means that the court may grant the divorce without deciding the other issues, such as property rights.

Because this is highly dependent on each person's specific situation, it is best to consult with an attorney about these issues before taking any action to initiate an interstate divorce. 

In most cases, whichever state the divorce proceedings are initiated first has jurisdiction, and this will typically be honored in other states. This can create significant differences in what spousal or child support, if any, is ordered, as well as how assets are split between the spouses.

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