If My Spouse and I Live In Different States, Where Can We Get a Divorce?

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Generally, filing for a divorce is more straightforward if the couple does not contest most marital matters of the divorce. However, the process can become complicated if both spouses do not agree on issues related to their divorce. The case can get even more complex if the spouses reside in different states, as each state can have different laws for divorce.

According to The Law Firm of Victoria, women can benefit from hiring a woman’s divorce attorney who has experience helping women through family law and divorce matters. Here are some things to consider if you are filing for divorce while living in a different state from your spouse.

Residency Requirements

Most states require you to be a resident of that state for six months before filing for divorce. Therefore, before you file a divorce petition, you and your spouse must ensure that you meet the state’s residency requirements. If you do not want to wait to file the divorce, you can ask your spouse to file in their state.

However, it might be better to file a divorce petition before your spouse for certain benefits. For example, the laws of the state you live in might favor you more than the laws of the state where your spouse resides. In addition, you could be required to travel to the state where your spouse resides for legal proceedings of the divorce.

The documents required to prove your residence include your rental lease, voter registration, driver’s license, or other state-issued I.D. In some cases, you will have to get the documents notarized.

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Choice of State

The choice of state holds great significance in a divorce case. The filing procedure, deadlines, attorney fees, and other aspects of the divorce can vary from one state to another. Therefore, choosing the state where you file for divorce deserves careful consideration.

For instance, in asset distribution for a divorce case, around nine states in the U.S. follow a 50/50 community property distribution rule in a divorce. While in other states, the judge may divide all marital assets equitably among the couple by assigning them a percentage of the shared property and debts. This means you could be at an advantage or disadvantage depending on your choice of state when filing for a divorce.

Each state uses different methods to determine the amount of alimony and child support to be paid in contested divorces. For example, some states can enforce child support and alimony payments more strictly, while others could be lenient.

No-Fault Divorce Cases

A no-fault divorce is one that a court grants because the divorcing spouses claim to have “irreconcilable differences” between the couple. These divorces are generally straightforward, and all states accept irreconcilable differences as grounds for a divorce.

However, some states could allow either spouse to dispute the no-fault divorce by claiming their spouse was at fault. In that case, according to state laws, the spouse who was not at fault could be rewarded higher spousal support payments and a more considerable portion of marital property.


One of the main confusions in filing for divorce from different states is the matter of jurisdiction. For instance, if the couple lives in one state, another state court would not have any authority to preside over their divorce case.

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There are two kinds of jurisdictions in divorce cases: personal and subject matter jurisdiction.

Subject matter jurisdiction refers to the court’s authority to hear certain cases. Personal jurisdiction is the court’s authority to make legally binding judgments and orders related to the person. Typically, the superior courts of any state have subject matter jurisdiction over separation actions and divorce petitions.

Other factors can establish personal jurisdiction over an individual, such as if the individual involved in the separation action is in the state for conducting business or they own real property.

First to file

When the divorcing couple meets the residency requirements of their respective states, they can both be eligible to pursue a divorce petition. If they both file for divorce in different states, the court where the petition was filed first has jurisdiction over the divorce case. The court where the petition was filed later would dismiss the divorce proceedings.

If a Divorce is Granted in One State, Would it Be Honored In Another State?

If a divorce is granted in one state, it would be honored in all other states unless the state laws deem otherwise. For instance, if the filing spouse did not meet the state’s residency requirements and still proceeded with the divorce, the court of the spouse’s state could refuse to recognize or honor the divorce.

Steps for Filing a Divorce from Different States

Providing Notice

The first step to a divorce’s legal proceedings is to notify your spouse. If your spouse is a resident of a different state, you would be required by law to inform them of the divorce petition, similar to divorce proceedings handled when spouses are in the same state. After that, you can either serve the documents yourself or have your attorney take care of them.

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Typically, after the documents are served to the other spouse, they would have a specific time period to respond. The time granted to the spouse for responding to the documents can vary between states. If your spouse cannot be located, the notification can be publicized to inform them about the divorce proceedings.

Preliminary Hearings

Contested divorces can take some time to finalize, which is why the court with jurisdiction over your case would hold a temporary hearing to resolve some issues for the time being. For instance, the use of the marital property until the divorce is finalized would be addressed and determined in the preliminary hearing. In addition, the preliminary hearing can temporarily resolve child support and custody matters until the final order is granted.

Negotiations and Trial

The court can order a mediation process that each spouse must attend to resolve the contested matters surrounding their divorce in the presence of a mediator. If they fail to do so, the case will go to trial, where each spouse would present their arguments and evidence to a judge or jury in court. The court makes the final judgment on matters related to the divorce. If any spouse requests adjustments to the final court order, such as they wish to modify the child custody order, they can do so post-trial.