Out of State vs. In State Divorce
Do I have to live in a state to get a divorce there?
All states require a spouse to be a resident of the state -- often for at least six months and sometimes for as long as one year -- before filing for a divorce there. Someone who files for divorce must offer proof that he or she has resided there for the required length of time. Only three states -- Alaska, South Dakota, and Washington -- have no statutory requirement for resident status.
If you think that your spouse may file for divorce in another state, it may be prudent to spend the money up front and file first -- in your home state. Rarely is a divorce settled in one court appearance, and, if your spouse files elsewhere, you could rack up a lot of traveling expenses.
Also, any modifications to the divorce decree, including the property settlement agreement and arrangements for child custody and support, must be filed in the original state. This could keep you traveling out of state for years to come, especially if you have children with your spouse.
Can an out-of-state divorce be enforced?
If one spouse meets the residency requirement of a state or country (such as having lived there from six months to a year), a divorce obtained there is valid, even if the other spouse lives somewhere else. The courts of all states will recognize the divorce.
However, decisions a court makes regarding property division, alimony, custody, and child support may not be valid unless the court had jurisdiction over the nonresident spouse. The court gets jurisdiction when the nonresident spouse is personally served with the divorce documents (meaning they are delivered into the person's hands), or consents to jurisdiction. A nonresident spouse consents to jurisdiction by showing up at a court date or signing an affidavit of service, acknowledging receipt of the filed legal documents. It can also happen if the nonresident spouse abides by the rulings of the court; for example, by paying court-ordered child support.
Your Decision | When it comes to the crunch, it is your decision and for the most part your decision will be driven by finances and your current relationship with your spouse.