In order to establish jurisdiction -- a court's power to hear a case and enter judgments -- you have to meet your state's residency requirements. When you file a divorce complaint, alleging your residency is required. Lying about your residency in a divorce complaint can result in the dismissal of your case and delay receiving your divorce.
Residency is key to a court's jurisdiction over a case; generally, at least one party to a marriage must have resided in the state for the requisite length of time or the court can't enter a divorce judgment. Every state has its own requirements, which can vary greatly. For example, you can file for divorce immediately in Washington and Alaska, but Maryland requires you to reside in the state for a year. New York requires the parties to reside in the state for one year if the parties were married in the state or resided in the state as husband and wife, but requires that at least one party establishes two years of residency if the parties were not married in the state.
Some states require you to prove residency before the court will hear your divorce case. You should check with your state to see what the court will accept as proof of residence. Commonly accepted forms of residency verification include driver’s licenses, identification cards and voter registration cards. Some states also require an affidavit from a corroborating witness confirming, under oath, the spouse has met the residency requirements. Usually, the corroborating witness must be someone other than the husband or wife in the case.
If the filing spouse lies in the petition or complaint for divorce, saying the residency requirement has been met, the responding spouse can file an answer with the court denying the filing spouse has been a resident of the state for the requisite period of time. The filing spouse would then have the burden of proving residency within the state for the required amount of time. It is important to remember that the residency requirement generally must be met at the time the petition or complaint is filed; meeting the requirement by the time of hearing usually won't be sufficient.
Can't Prove Residency
If a spouse cannot establish that he or she has honestly met the residency requirement, the court can dismiss the petition or complaint. However, the court typically dismisses the case without prejudice, which means that the filing party can refile after meeting the residency requirement. If a filing party realizes he or she was mistaken about the residency requirement, he or she can voluntarily dismiss the petition without prejudice rather than waiting for a court to do it.
References & Resources
- American Bar: Grounds for Divorce and Residency Requirements
- Ohio Legla Services: How to File an Answer to a Divorce Complaint Without An Attorney
- Florida Courts: Instructions for Florida Supreme Court Family Law Form 12.902(i)
- Illinois Legal Aid: What's the Difference Between Dismissed with Prejuidce and Without Prejudice
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