“What is your state of residence?” will likely be one of the first questions asked. The plaintiff must be a resident of the state where the divorce proceedings are filed. The defendant’s residency does not usually affect the state’s jurisdiction over the divorce action, but it may affect issues such as child custody and visitation. States have varying requirements for someone to establish residency, with most requiring that the person live in the state for a specified period of time and acquire a permanent address.
“Why are you divorcing the defendant?” will be another important question as many state courts require grounds or reasons for a divorce. Unless the state is strictly a no-fault divorce state, one or more pre-established reasons must be stated for filing for divorce. Fault-based grounds in many states include physical abuse, abandonment, adultery and drug abuse. Most states also recognize less accusatory grounds such as irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or irreconcilable differences.
“How long have you been separated?” Some states require a statutory period of separation in which the parties may not live together prior to beginning divorce proceedings. If that period is broken by any period of cohabitation in which it can be established that the parties shared marital relations, then the time period for separation may restart. Waiting periods may range from 6 months to 1 year in many states, and may be conditioned upon whether there are children born of the marriage.
“Do the two of you have minor children?” Whether there are children under the age of adulthood is a very important question as issues such as custody, visitation, child support and relations with parties of the opposite sex may become hotly debated. These issues are often emotional and complex and can extend the length of the proceedings.