When spouses marry in one state and are both still living in that state when they decide to divorce, it’s clear they should file for divorce in that state. But, when one or both spouses move to a new state, it may be trickier for the spouses to decide where to file for divorce. Generally, spouses can file in the state where at least one of them lives, but each state has its own filing requirements.
A court must have jurisdiction, or legal authority, over a case before it can issue decisions in that case, and state laws determine the minimum jurisdictional requirements for each type of case a court can hear. In divorce cases, a court’s jurisdiction does not depend on where the couple married. Instead, a court’s jurisdiction often comes from where the spouses reside at the time of their divorce filing or currently live.
If a couple marries in Florida then moves together to Colorado, Colorado has jurisdiction to handle their divorce case after they have lived in Colorado for at least 90 days, since Colorado requires a spouse to reside there for at least 90 days before filing. If one spouse returns to Florida before the divorce is filed, Florida would regain jurisdiction over the case once the spouse lives in Florida for six months.
Picking a Forum
If one spouse lives in Colorado and the other spouse lives in Florida, either state could have jurisdiction over the divorce. The spouses can choose to file in either state, and they may choose based on which state’s laws are more beneficial to their case. Both Florida and Colorado are pure no-fault divorce states, which means spouses must use no-fault grounds for divorce. Florida and Colorado both distribute marital property according to "equitable distribution" principles, so courts in both states divide marital property in a way that is fair but not necessarily equal. However, Florida has a reputation for being alimony-friendly, despite revisions in the law in 2009 through 2011.
A court that has jurisdiction to decide divorce issues may not have jurisdiction to decide child custody issues. Both Florida and Colorado have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which gives states the authority to decide child-related issues based on where a child lives rather than where her parent lives. Typically, a court does not have jurisdiction over a child until he has lived in the state for at least six months. For example, if a parent relocates to Colorado and leaves the children behind in Florida, the Colorado court will likely not decide child custody issues if the parent files for divorce in Colorado. Even if the parent relocated the children to Colorado, Florida could still claim jurisdiction until the children lived in Colorado for at least six months.