What Determines the State You Get Divorced In?
By Karyn Maier
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Typically, you file for divorce in the jurisdiction where you currently reside. Most states, with the exception of South Dakota and Washington, require that you be a resident of the state for a certain length of time before you file for divorce. This length of time varies by state. South Dakota and Washington simply require that you be a "resident" without specifying a length of time you need to live there first. If your situation is complex and you are unsure about where to file for divorce, consult an attorney experienced in family law.
The minimum length of residency required to file for divorce in any state is 30 days, in Alaska. If you live in Arkansas or Wyoming, the minimum duration of residency is 60 days. If you live in Arizona, Illinois, Missouri, Montana or Utah, the minimum is 90 days. Several states, such as Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Maine, require six months of residency, while in Rhode Island, Nebraska and Massachusetts the minimum is 12 months. In South Carolina, the minimum length of residency required is 12 months unless both spouses continue to reside in the state, in which case the requirement is lowered to 90 days.
Proof of Residency
Most courts accept your sworn complaint as proof of your residency in the state. However, other documents can be used to verify residency, such as a driver’s license, voter registration card, utility bills in your name or a paystub showing your place of employment.
Although nearly all states have minimum residency requirements to start a divorce proceeding, the general rule of thumb is to file in the state where one or both parties reside at the time. However, there are occasions when temporary non-residency status can affect or delay a divorce action, such as when either spouse is on active duty in the military. According to the provisions of the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act of 2003, formerly known as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Relief Act, members of the military can request the court to delay a divorce proceeding if extended deployment affects their ability to participate.
The residency requirements in certain states include multiple criteria, any one of which must be satisfied to file for a divorce in that state. For example, according to New York Domestic Relations Law, Section 230, you can file for divorce in the state if you were married in New York, the grounds for divorce occurred in the state, or if you and your spouse resided in the state as husband and wife for a period of one year before the action is filed. If none of these conditions can be met, the residency requirements for either spouse increase to a minimum of two years continuously and immediately before filing for divorce in New York.
Karyn Maier is a seasoned columnist and feature writer. Since 1992, her work has appeared in Mother Earth News, The Herb Quarterly, Better Nutrition and in many other print and digital publications. She is also the author of five books, and is published in six languages.