Can You File for Divorce Anywhere?

By Wayne Thomas

The divorce process is governed entirely by state law. Often, significant differences between states regarding the recognized grounds for divorce and how matters related to custody, property, and spousal support are decided. However, you are not free to simply file in any jurisdiction you choose; you must meet the state specific residency requirements. These laws require you to have some connection with the state before pursuing a divorce action.

Common Residency Requirements

State laws can vary greatly when it comes to the residency requirement. In some states, including Alabama, at least one spouse must have lived in the state for a set time period, such as six months. Other states, including New York, offer a reduced time period required to establish residency, if the events that led up to the marital breakdown occurred locally. Finally, some states, including Maine, allow you to divorce, if you were married in that state and the filing spouse currently lives in the state, and has done so for any length of time. It is not uncommon for states to have one or more options for satisfying the residency requirement.

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What Determines the State You Get Divorced In?

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Washington State Residency & Divorce

Most states have durational residency requirements for divorce -- you must live in the jurisdiction for a continuous period of time before you can file there. Washington law does not include such a rule, but it does impose a waiting period before the court will actually grant you a divorce.

Is the Absence of Sexual Relations Grounds for Divorce?

Sexual behavior outside the marriage and the lack of sexual relations within the marriage can serve as grounds for divorce in states that continue to allow "fault" divorces. But all fifty states now authorize no-fault divorces, allowing either spouse to dissolve a marriage citing irreconcilable differences. However, you still have the option of filing for divorce on "fault" grounds in many states.

Where Can you File for a Divorce When Your Spouse Resides in Another State?

In most divorces, the separating couple will remain in the same state -- probably even the same county or town. Filing the initial paperwork for a divorce is a straightforward process when the parties live in the same jurisdiction. In some situations, however, one or both spouses move to another state. In these cases, it is important to familiarize yourself with residency requirements before you file for divorce.

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