For some couples, a change of scenery might help their marriage. Unfortunately, the move to California didn’t help Anya and Gregory. After only two months, Gregory moved out of their new home. As he had done through most of their marriage, Gregory left the details and heavy lifting of their divorce for Anya to work out. However, Anya learned there might be a problem the day she called the clerk’s office to ask about filing procedures. California law sets out a residency requirement for people who want to file for divorce.
Why Residency Matters
Primarily, it matters because of California Family Code Section 2320. To file for divorce, the person filing must meet the following residency standards:
- be a resident of the state for six months
- be a resident of the county in which they want to file for three months
Note that either spouse must have lived in California for six months before filing, not both. For example, if one spouse arrived seven months before the other, either may file for divorce. Likewise, someone who meets the residency requirement but whose spouse still lives in another state may get the divorce started in California.
But what happens if a couple really need to split up and neither meets the residence requirement?
If you and your spouse need to separate but can’t file for divorce, you can file for legal separation instead. This process is similar to a divorce proceeding. In fact, some of the paperwork is the same. However, the result is different.
Couples who have legally separated are still married. So, neither is free to marry someone else. However, they can deal with property division, custody, child support, and spousal support. Another advantage of legal separation is that the couple can decide whether divorce is the answer or not. When at least one spouse meets the residence requirements mentioned above, they can file for divorce.
Anya may decide to file for legal separation from Gregory in the county in which she lives, no matter where Gregory has landed. On the other hand, she may wait until she has lived in California before acting. Divorce is usually a difficult decision and it would be in her best interest to talk to a California divorce lawyer.