How Do I Know Where to File Divorce?

How Do I Know Where to File Divorce?

Most people never learn about how to get divorced.  Some people watch their relationship fall apart slowly and have time to figure out how divorce works, but for others, the end of a relationship can be very sudden and they might not know what to do next.  Here are some of the basics of where you need to go.

Go to a lawyer

Most people should get a lawyer involved in their divorce, but some people want to avoid the cost.  Research shows that only 39% of Americans have enough money in the bank to cover a $1,000 setback, like a broken-down car or a costly injury.  So, it is not surprising that many couples try to get through a divorce without hiring an attorney. In some cases, this can work.  In other cases, a couple might share a lawyer who can help both sides work towards a low-cost divorce. That lawyer can do things like explaining where a divorce petition should be filed.  Most people will be much better off with a lawyer looking out for their individual best interests, though.

Look for a court in your area of residence

In most situations, you must file for divorce where you reside.  Residence is basically just where you are currently living.  Each state has its own rules for how long it will take for you to establish residency.  As research from the American Bar Association shows, you may need to live in a state for anywhere from six weeks to a year before the state will treat you as a resident.  Some states may also require you to file in your hometown or county.

Look for a court in your area of residence

You may be tied to one location

If you are just getting a divorce, you can file almost anywhere.  For example, Nevada only requires six weeks to establish residency and it was one of the first open-minded states regarding divorce.  As a result, people would often go stay in Reno or Las Vegas for six weeks to get a divorce handled.

When property and child custody are involved in the divorce

It gets much more complicated if other issues are involved in a divorce, namely property division and child custody.  In cases involving children, the state of the child’s residency will likely have jurisdiction. So one spouse cannot usually move out of a family home to another state and then try to get divorced in that other state.  The new state of residence will leave it to the state where the family home was. Note that once a child custody or support order is granted, there is a law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act that ensures the order is enforced in other states.  The home itself may also be an issue, as the court where the property is located may assert jurisdiction.    

Filing a divorce for military members

Residency gets even more complicated for military members.  Federal law allows military members to basically keep their old residence, even if they are currently stationed somewhere else.  As a result, a spouse that moves may not be able to get a divorce in his or her new home state. Instead, it may be left up to the state where the servicemember lived before he began serving.  

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