It happens. Married couples split up and one spouse relocates to a different state. The question is, which state do you get divorced in?
Many people mistakenly believe that you have to file for divorce in the state where you filed for a marriage license. That seems sensible, but it is incorrect.
Does it matter which spouse files for divorce?
No, either one of you can file for divorce. What matters is that the person doing the filing does it in the state where he or she has established residency.
What is residency?
First things first. Before you even begin thinking about divorce proceedings, you need to make sure that the person filing for divorce has established residency in their state.
Each state is different when it comes to establishing residency. To establish residency in Ohio, you have to reside in Ohio for six months prior to filing for divorce. In contrast, if you move to Maryland, you would have to reside there for a full year to establish residency.
Keep that in mind when considering which spouse should file for divorce. For example, if you have lived in Ohio for six months, you would be eligible to file for divorce in Ohio. If your spouse moved to Maryland three months ago, he would not be eligible to file for divorce in Maryland for another nine months.
Here's a handy link to the residency requirements for all 50 states.
How does this work for members of the armed services?
If you (or your spouse) is a member of the armed services, you may be stationed at various locations around the country for long periods at a time. In order to file for divorce in the state where you are temporarily located, you must have been stationed in that state for the same length of time required for residency, in order to establish what is considered a "military presence."
What if both spouses have residency?
If both you and your spouse have established residency in your respective states, either one of you can file for divorce. Jurisdiction will go to the state of the spouse who files for divorce first.
One of you will have to do some traveling.
Once you have filed for divorce in your state, all aspects of your divorce will be handled by the courts of that state. The spouse living out of state will have to travel back to your state for depositions, hearings and other court-related matters.
The state you get divorced in may affect spousal and child support.
Each state has different divorce laws. For instance, spousal support may be higher in one state than the other. You should weigh the pros and cons of the laws of both states before filing for divorce.
Getting a divorce when you and your spouse live in different states can certainly be challenging. Knowing the divorce laws of both states can help you in making that decision.