My Spouse Lives in Another State. Where Should I File for Divorce?

My Spouse Lives in Another State. Where Should I File for Divorce?

There are times when a divorce crosses state lines. For example, Cynthia and George married in California, then moved to Iowa. After two years, Cynthia abruptly returns to California, leaving George, their condo, most of their furniture, and an automobile back in Iowa. She intends to file for divorce immediately. However, since her spouse lives in another state, she’s left wondering where she should file for divorce – California or Iowa?

Residency Matters

Each state has its own laws and rules about filing for divorce. For example, Iowa requires the person filing for divorce to live in state for 365 days to become eligible to file for divorce. There’s no in-county minimum residency. Had Cynthia stayed in Iowa, she could have filed for divorce since she had lived there more than 365 days.

However, in California, the rules are quite different. The person filing the divorce petition must meet the following residency requirements:

  • Must have been a resident of the state of California for at least six months prior to filing the petition.
  • Must have lived in the county where the divorce petition is filed for at least three months.

The rules are a bit looser for same-sex marriages. In some cases, neither partner has to be a California resident. A dissolution may be allowed if the parties live in a jurisdiction that will not recognize or dissolve their union.

Cynthia has not resided in California for six months, so she does not meet the residency requirement. However, she desperately needs to find a way to separate from George.

Other Options

In California, marriages may be terminated in one of three ways: divorce, annulment, or legal separation.

Unlike divorce, there is no residency requirement for filing for a legal separation. In addition, a legal separation may take place as soon as one party files the paperwork with the court. This option may provide some protection for the parties until they have lived in California for at least six months.

Cynthia decided to obtain a legal separation, then convert it to a divorce proceeding once she had lived in California for six months.

Long Distance Divorce Can Be Difficult

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

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