Leaving the State After Filing for Divorce

By Beverly Bird

Before any state can grant a divorce, it must have jurisdiction over both spouses. Jurisdiction gives it the right to decide issues between them. When you file for divorce, your petition or complaint attests to the fact that you’ve met residency requirements. This gives your state jurisdiction over you. When you serve your spouse with a copy of your petition or complaint, your state gains jurisdiction over him. After jurisdiction is established, you can usually leave the state, either temporarily or permanently. However, exceptions exist if you have children.

Residency Requirements

When you file a complaint or petition for divorce, you must meet each state's residency requirements at that time. The exact time period depends on individual state laws; some states only require a few weeks, and others require months. However, the time must generally be continuous. If your state has a three-month requirement, you can’t live there for two months, leave for a month, return for a month, then file for divorce. When you do file, jurisdiction requirements over you are satisfied, so you don’t have to stay.


If you and your spouse have children, and if you’ve already filed for divorce, you should confer with an attorney before leaving your state. The laws regarding moving your children away from their other parent while litigation is pending can be very complex. When you filed for divorce, you gave your state jurisdiction over your children as well. Therefore, you would have to file a petition with the court and ask for permission to leave and take your children with you. Some states, such as Utah, are relatively lenient about granting permission. Others, such as New Jersey, are very strict. Under the terms of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the state where you filed for divorce usually maintains jurisdiction until your divorce is final. The terms of the UCCJEA are complicated and there are sometimes exceptions. Nevertheless, you should not leave and take your children with you before you've conferred with a lawyer.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Practical Considerations

If your divorce is a relatively simple matter and you don’t think it’s going to take a lot of time, it might be easier not to leave until it is over. Divorces usually involve court appearances, and some states may require mediation between spouses in an effort to resolve issues. You might find yourself in a situation where you frequently have to travel back to the state where you filed for divorce, in order to move through the divorce process and finalize it.

Other Options

If you know before you file for divorce that you want to relocate, investigate the residency requirements and divorce laws in the state to which you want to move. If its residency requirement is only a month or so, and if its other divorce laws are favorable to your personal situation, you might want to move first, then file for divorce in your new jurisdiction. This is especially true if you have children. However, until your children have lived in the new state for six months, the UCCJEA allows your spouse to file for divorce or custody in your home state, while you're establishing residency in your new jurisdiction. Your spouse can demand that you send your children home until custody is resolved.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to Get a Divorce Out of State


Related articles

How to File for a Divorce in Indiana

There is usually an easy way and a hard way to get a divorce. If you and your spouse are contesting any issues, you’re probably stuck with doing it the hard way. If you live in Indiana, however, the state streamlines the process a little to make it as painless for you as possible.

Divorce & Jurisdiction

State laws vary when it comes to obtaining a divorce, so it may be tempting to file for divorce in the state with the procedures most friendly to your case. But a court must have proper jurisdiction to address the cases before it, so not every court has authority to grant you a divorce and rule on the issues involved. Generally, you must file in the state where you or your spouse meets residency requirements.

How Long Do You Have to Live in Tennessee Before You Can Divorce Someone From Another State?

Filing for divorce can be a confusing process and you may even be uncertain regarding where you can file. If you have recently moved to Tennessee and would like to file for divorce, there are several issues to consider including the length of time you have lived in Tennessee and whether your spouse may have filed for divorce in his state of residence. However, it is possible to file for divorce in Tennessee if your spouse lives in another state.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Leave the State of Utah With a Child Due to Divorce

Whether you are planning on leaving the state of Utah before or after filing for divorce, moving may complicate your ...

Can You Get a Divorce if Your Spouse Abandons the Home and Takes the Kids?

If your spouse takes the kids and moves out, you may wish to file for divorce immediately. You can file for divorce ...

Moving Out of State in the Middle of a Custody Battle in Texas

If you’re in the middle of active custody litigation, Texas courts won’t take it well if you suddenly move out of state ...

Can You Relocate With a Child Before a Divorce in Georgia?

When you decide to end your marriage, moving to another city -- or even another state -- may seem like your best ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED