Divorce And Residency Issues: What To Know

If you and your spouse have exhausted your options to work it out and stay married, divorce is likely on your radar. The issues of who files first and where the divorce gets filed can play a part in the divorce proceedings, and this is one area that divorcing couples should know about ahead of time. To learn more about residency requirements for getting divorced, read on.

State residency requirements

No matter where you live, there will be residency requirements that must be followed before you (or your spouse) can file for divorce. At least one spouse must have lived in the state a certain period of time to file for divorce there. In most cases, you must provide proof of your time in residence using a driver's license, a rental lease, a utility bill, etc. The time required varies a bit, but it's most-commonly 6 months. It should be noted that there are five states that have no residency requirements:

  • Alaska
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • South Dakota
  • Washington

In those five states, one of you has to be living in the state at the time you file for divorce, even if you just moved there last week.

When you live in different states

Not all couples live together, even when they are perfectly happy. If your spouse lives in another state and is able to meet the residency requirements there, you might be dealing with an out-of-state divorce situation. This can present the out-of-state spouse with numerous logistical and financial problems since you will likely have to travel to your spouse's state on several occasions.

That is not the only problem when dealing with this situation, however. When the divorce becomes final in another state, you must always file any modifications in that state, prompting more travel, expense, and inconvenience. Some common modifications that might have to be dealt with in the future include those dealing with:

  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Child visitation
  • Spousal support (also called alimony or maintenance)

If you have reason to believe that your spouse is about to file for divorce from another state of residence, your only defense is to get there first. Only by making the first move and filing in your own state can you prevent what might be years of inconveniences.

If you already know it's too late and you have been served or are about to be served with divorce paperwork from another state, speak to a divorce attorney. For the state to have jurisdiction over both parties in the divorce there must be certain actions performed by the out-of-state spouse. One of these might be when and if you accept the divorce paperwork or the first time you appear at a hearing for the divorce. Don't delay in seeking advice since you might be able to have a say in where you divorce.