where you file for divorce matters

How Is Jurisdiction Decided in Divorce?

Goldberg Jones Divorce, Divorce Process Leave a Comment

Resolving to file for divorce is a momentous decision. Ending a marriage throws your entire life into upheaval. While any number of factors go into pursuing this course of action, there’s much more to deal with after you make this choice.

An entire world of logistical questions awaits out there. Including where to file the appropriate paperwork and who has jurisdiction.

California Requirements For Jurisdiction In Divorce

In addition to filling out and submitting the proper forms, you need to file these documents at the correct location. Laws vary a great deal depending on where you live. You want to take pains to make sure that you file for divorce in the right state, county, and even court.

  • You don’t need to file for divorce in the state where you were married.
  • You do need to be a legal resident of the state where you file.
  • California has a residency requirement of six months or 180 days.
  • It’s not necessary for both parties to be legal residents in the same state.

Each state has its own specific set of rules and regulations that lay out the requirements for dissolving a marriage. Most demand that you be a resident for a set amount of time before filing for divorce. This prevents people from moving from one state to another with more favorable laws.

If you and your spouse live in different states, this also impacts where you file. Depending on the states and your specific situation, there may be benefits or detriments to filing in one or the other.

If the two spouses agree on which region has jurisdiction, the divorce can proceed there. To determine jurisdiction if you move around frequently, look at factors like:

  • Where you vote and pay taxes.
  • What state issued your driver’s license.
  • If you qualify for in-state college tuition.

County Requirements To File For Divorce

Beyond state requirements to file for divorce, you often face regulations peculiar to the county where you live.

California has local obligations that must be met in addition to state residency. You must live in a particular county for at least three months before you can file for divorce there.

Counties often have their own unique local laws and paperwork you have to fill out. Your county’s court website should have the information you need.

But if you are unsure of the regional restrictions, it may be in your best interest to hire an experienced local attorney. They can make sure you file the appropriate forms and meet all of the requirements.

How Does Jurisdiction Affect Your Divorce?

Wherever you live, and wherever you plan to file for divorce, make sure you fully understand the local laws and how they impact the process.

The location has a big influence on things like the division of property.

For instance, courts in some areas may divide a military pension where others will not. That can be huge for both spouses. Splitting up assets in a community property state, like California, will be different than in an equitable distribution state, like Oregon.

Related Reading: How Does Legal Separation Work in California?

What About Child Custody?

Where you and your spouse file for divorce may also impact things like who has jurisdiction over child custody decisions.

In these cases, unless one state claims continuing control over a particular case, the child’s home state will maintain dominance in these matters. This isn’t the state the child is from necessarily, but the state where he or she resides.

Modifications to a custody agreement or parenting plan may be handled there, regardless of where the parents live. As in most cases involving minor children, the court takes the child’s best interest into consideration when issuing a decision.

Rules and regulations on how to file for divorce vary so greatly from state to state. Even county to county. Attention to detail will be important to the process. Do your homework and be thorough to ensure your case isn’t dismissed because of a simple mistake.

Related Reading: Uncontested Divorce Questions
Related Reading: Should I File for Divorce First?

Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of an earlier post and has been revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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