If you and your spouse lived in Arizona at the time your marriage fell apart, then that's the proper place to file for divorce, called dissolution of marriage. However, divorce is sometimes a lengthy process, and you may want to move out of state before your divorce is final. Moving likely will not change your divorce, but it may impact the court’s authority to decide issues like child custody.
Under Section 25-312 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, the spouse who files for divorce must live in Arizona, or be stationed in Arizona by the military, for at least 90 days before filing the petition for dissolution of marriage. When the filing spouse meets this residency requirement and files the petition, the court gains jurisdiction over her, giving the court the authority to decide issues pertaining to the divorce. Jurisdiction is determined at the time a spouse files for divorce, so there is no requirement that she continue living in Arizona after filing.
Long Arm Jurisdiction
Arizona retains jurisdiction over the divorce case even when one or both spouses move out of state, as long as the case was properly filed. If one spouse files for the divorce while the other lives out of state, or if the defendant spouse moves after the divorce is filed, Arizona can exercise jurisdiction over the defendant spouse under its “long arm” statute. This statute permits someone to be sued in Arizona -- for divorce or other matters -- if that person has sufficient contacts with Arizona such that it is fair to require him to appear in court there. For example, if the spouses both lived in Arizona, but one moved away the week after the divorce was filed, an Arizona court would still have jurisdiction over the moving spouse since he had plenty of ties to Arizona at the time the divorce was filed.
Though it may be legally possible to complete a divorce in Arizona when one or both spouses move, it may not be easy. Moving mid-divorce can complicate your case, particularly if the divorce is contested. For example, if you must travel back to the Arizona court for multiple hearings, you may find it easier and less expensive to simply remain in Arizona until the divorce is complete. If you are representing yourself in court, you may have to hire an attorney to be your local representative if you move out of state.
Moving out of state may remove the Arizona court’s ability to determine custody if the moving spouse takes his children with him when he moves. Arizona has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which governs when a court has jurisdiction to address issues such as child custody. Typically, a child must live in a state, called the home state, for at least six months before that state’s courts can issue custody orders. A court in another state can issue custody orders under certain circumstances but may be reluctant to do so except in emergencies. If an Arizona court loses jurisdiction over divorcing spouses’ children, they may still get a divorce in that court, but they must go to another court in the new state to determine child custody and visitation.