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My Spouse Moved to Another State – Where Do I File for Divorce?

Juggling residencies and marriages in different states is complex. There are a plethora of scenarios that may have led to the situation of two spouses living far away from each other. Whether to move back in with family or for a job relocation, spouses moving apart from each other is far from a rare occurrence. 

The state in which the marriage license was issued is rarely the issue. Despite this, it is still smart to check with local government regulations and an attorney to ensure that the divorce is carried out smoothly. States with different laws, rules, and regulations surrounding marriage licenses must be taken into consideration when filing for divorce. In any case, state residency is typically the primary area of concern.

However easy it may seem, simply moving to another state within the country does not automatically qualify someone as a resident. State governments, generally speaking, like to see a commitment to participating in and improving the community that is their state. This is to prevent people from abusing local laws. People moving to the state must meet a list of requirements that are set by the local government in order to file for divorce and perform other legal activities. This status must usually be proven to the state with a number of documents and pieces of evidence.

In the large majority of cases, the residency requirements of a state must be met before someone is able to file for a divorce. This is important to remember as the court may completely refuse your attempt to file for divorce as you do not fall within their jurisdiction via failure to meet residency requirements. 

The Issue of Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction is another common topic in regard to filing for divorce when spouses live in different areas. It may be decided by the court that they lack jurisdiction over the other spouse and therefore can do very little. This reality means that courts may not be able to make decisions on property in other states or decide matters of child custody but may still be able to annul the marriage as it stands. This effectively means that the legal bodies of the state have jurisdiction over the marriage, but not the spouse. This is further made difficult when the state cannot contact the spouse. 

The issue is normally resolved when both spouses meet the residency requirements in the states in which they live. The flip side of this means that if both or either of the divorcing individuals do not meet the residency requirements, they may be forced to wait until after fulfilling them to finalize their divorce. In any case, the first individual to serve divorce papers to another when both fulfill residency requirements will normally have their state take jurisdiction over the legal proceeding process.

The “Saving Grace” Clause – But With a Catch

According to national law, states must legally honor legal proceedings that are filed in other states. This is written in the Constitution and is only non-recognized in certain special circumstances. Cases in which the Full Faith and Credit Clause is ignored include failure to meet the residency requirements of a state and failure to properly notify one’s spouse. In this scenario, states may not recognize their divorce,

Notices are an important step in the process of filing for divorce. While this is typically applicable to all divorces – not just those occurring across state lines – its importance should be stressed as failure to notice can result in an array of issues down the line. Providing notice, put plainly, is informing one’s spouse that they are filing for divorce. A proper and simple way of assuring that this is done and recognized by the law is via serving. Serving is a term that refers to a sheriff or other governmental official physically handing the divorce papers to one’s partner.  

Want to Wrap it Up Quickly? This Might not Be as Easy as One Thinks

Much of the headaches and issues that stem from filing for divorce across state lines can be superseded with compromise and agreement. Many states have policies that favor divorce files that are agreed upon by both parties. Should terms be agreed upon in full and signed by both parties, it may matter much less in which state the divorce is filed in.

Divorce is a tricky topic that involves a slew of confusing jurisdictional, legal, and residential issues. Along with the assurance of a dedicated fight for issues such as child custody and property, many people choose to employ the help of lawyers and attorneys to navigate this web of confusion. A proper understanding of multiple states’ divorce and marriage laws, jurisdictions, and other intricacies of the United States government is critical to ensuring neither party is left in limbo. 

Other Separation Complications to Consider Across State Lines

Aside from the divorce process, both spouses may have other matters to consider, particularly if they have minor children. First and foremost, both parents are responsible for child support, regardless of whether or not they live in separate states. 

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) was created to ensure that child support orders are regulated across state lines. Under UIFSA, states can pursue child support payments no matter what jurisdiction the other parent resides in. When one parent (typically the parent needing child support) files for support in their home state, the other parent will receive notice of required payments, no matter where they live. Failing to pay child support is a crime and could result in jail time, back payments, and interest on unpaid child support. 

In addition to child support, child custody will certainly become more complicated when one parent relocates to another state. The court where the divorce was filed will examine and take into account the best interests of the child when determining custody issues, and the parent who relocates may not end up with favorable custody arrangements, particularly if moving the child would upend their current lifestyle. 

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