Sophie and Liam decided to move to California and get married, in that order. Liam moved to San Jose in January to find them a place to live and get a job, but Sophie had unfinished business in their home state of Kentucky. Sophie planned to follow in May so that she could prepare for their June wedding. Everything seemed to run smoothly until July when Sophie learned that her marriage had been a big mistake. She quickly contacted a California divorce attorney to ask how soon she could file for divorce from Liam, even though she had just gotten married. Her attorney helped her understand California residency requirements as they explored solutions to her problem.
Basic California Divorce
Because California is a no-fault state, you do not have to have a reason to file for divorce. In fact, you do not have to prove infidelity or any other causes. Many people just say they are dissolving their marriage because of irreconcilable differences.
To start a divorce proceeding, one spouse files a Petition – Marriage/Domestic Partnership. This party, known as the petitioner, has to provide information about the couple’s:
- Legal Relationship
- Residence Requirements
- Date of Marriage and Separation Date
The petition asks the court to address child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. The couple can negotiate these issues and ask the court to approve their resolutions. If they are unable to agree, the court will make these decisions for them.
Sophie and Liam definitely are married, so they meet the legal relationship requirement and can provide the date of marriage and separation date. The residency requirement is where Sophie might run into trouble. She has only lived in California for 2-3 months. Can she file for divorce now, or does she need to wait?
Residency Requirements for When You Can File for Divorce
California law places some specific requirements for when and where you can file for divorce. At least one of the parties must have lived in California for at least six months before filing. Also, one party must have lived in the county of filing for at least three months immediately before starting a divorce proceeding. In other words, either the petitioner or the respondent must meet these residency requirements.
Although Sophie does not meet the residency requirements, Liam does. Because Liam had lived in Santa Clara County since January, Sophie should be able to file for divorce in Santa Clara County.
People do have alternatives to divorce that might fit their situation.
- Legal Separation. People sometimes file for legal separation instead of divorce. If granted, a legal separation does not mean that the parties are free to marry someone else. However, each person may gain useful legal protections.
- Summary Dissolution Couples that meet certain criteria can file for summary dissolution, which typically is an easier way to terminate a marriage.
- Annulment. In some situations, a marriage can be annulled. For example, if one party was already married, underage, or enticed to enter into the marriage through fraud. When granted, an annulment essentially means the marriage never ‘happened.’
No matter your situation, always discuss your options with an experienced California divorce attorney before acting.
Knowing When and Where to File for Divorce Is Just the First Step
Couples in divorce proceedings have important decisions to make, including property division and support issues. Talk to an experienced California divorce attorney today. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with divorce matters in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Diego, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.