Can I File for Divorce in a Different State?
In the United States, 16.3 out of every 1,000 women got married in 2019, but 7.6 out of every 1,000 women got a divorce. Many people are as a result turning to a divorce lawyer for information about the process, because it comes with a lot of questions, like where you must legally bring the action.
Determining Where You Can File for Divorce
Some people may want to file for divorce in the state where their vacation homes are located because they wish to be in a state where they may be favored when it comes time to divide the marital assets. For example, Pennsylvania is a state where the courts divide marital assets by the process known as equitable distribution. What this means is that a court will base the decision on what it deems to be fair, which does not necessarily mean equal.
In community property states, each spouse may be able to designate some property as separate property, but the marital property will be considered to be community property. The court may divide this property evenly between the two spouses, and this may benefit the spouse with less separate property.
The purpose of residency requirements is to prevent the scenario described above from occurring. Most states require that couples set up residence in the state in which they plan to file for divorce. They may also need to meet a county residency requirement, but this will be shorter than the state requirement. You will also need to live in the location on a continuous basis to establish residency.
If your vacation home is in a community property state where it would benefit you to reside, you may wish to meet the residency requirements and file there.
Domicile Rather Than Residency
Your residence is the place where you receive mail, register to vote, and where you own, lease or rent your home. Your company may be in the location of this home, and you may have registered your vehicles and registered to vote in the area. This is evidence that the property is your residence.
Domicile means that you are physically located in the state. It also means that you intend to live there on an ongoing basis but that you are not required to remain there forever. Some states use the word “domicile” rather than residency for divorce proceedings.
The Right of Jurisdiction
Before the courts can decide how much marital property each spouse may receive, it must demonstrate that it has jurisdiction over the matter. The divorce petition is the document that states that the spouse meets the requirements for residency, and this provides the state with jurisdiction. Once the court serves the other spouse with the divorce papers, it has jurisdiction over this spouse as well. After this occurs, the filing spouse may leave the state if the couple doesn’t have any children.
Length of Time
If your vacation home is located in one of 26 states, you must establish residency for six months if you want to divorce in that state. Nevada requires one of the shortest residencies. If your vacation home is in Nevada, you will only need to reside there for six weeks. If your vacation home is in Washington, Alaska, or South Dakota, you aren’t required to establish residency. The remaining states have residency requirements of between 60 and 90 days.
Two extreme cases are Connecticut and New York. If your vacation home is in Connecticut, you will need to establish a domicile for a full 365 days. If you and your spouse did not get married in New York, you will need to live in the state for two years before you can file for divorce.
How Do Courts Determine Domicile?
Courts determine domicile by examining where the family lives, where the adults vote, where the vehicles are registered, and where they obtained their licenses to drive. Where they work and whether or not they are engaged in the community also add weight to the issue.
If you are in need of a divorce lawyer, contact us at the Law Office of Joanne Kleiner. We are located in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and we can be reached at (215) 886-1266.