How Long Do You Have to Live in a State to File for a Divorce in That State?

By Teo Spengler

State courts only have the authority to regulate disputes that involve their residents, but residency is a fluid concept. Each state determines how long you must reside within that state to file for divorce. The periods vary dramatically, so if you are new to a state, it pays to do your research before you file.

Residency Requirements

Residency is a term of art in the law, and its definition varies among jurisdictions. In some states, for some purposes, your intent controls. For example, in California, residency is defined as an intent to live or be located in California on "more than a temporary or transient basis."

Residency for Filing for Divorce

Every state sets out in its statutes some period of residency before a couple can divorce in its courts. These range from weeks to years. Generally, if one spouse fulfills the residency requirements, either spouse can file a petition for divorce in that state.

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Examples of State Residency Requirements

Nevada requires six weeks' residence before a couple can file for divorce, while California statutes require six months. New York mandates continuous physical presence for two years immediately before filing a divorce action. If a couple married in New York state or lived there as a married couple, the residency period is one year.

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Does Louisiana Require Separation Before Divorce?
 

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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.

Maryland Divorce and Separation Law

The lines between separation and divorce are a bit blurred in Maryland and can be confusing. The state recognizes limited divorce, which is a form of legal separation, but its no-fault grounds for an absolute divorce involve separation as well. You can also divorce without separating first. In all cases, however, some basic rules apply.

Jurisdiction Issues in a Texas Divorce

Texas requires anyone who files for divorce in the state to meet both state and county residency requirements. Since there are 254 counties in Texas, be sure that you file in the correct location, especially if you have recently moved. If you file in the wrong county, the court will not have jurisdiction, which means it does not have the power to hear your case or the authority to issue a final decree of divorce.

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