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How Can I File for Divorce If My Spouse Lives in a Different State?

After a married couple decides to file for divorce, it is not uncommon for one spouse to move out of state. However, marriage laws differ from state to state, and a spouse living in another jurisdiction may complicate the divorce process. If you and your spouse live in separate states, you will follow a number of steps to choose which place to file.

Step #1: Determine State Residency Requirements

You cannot file for divorce in a state if you do not meet its residency requirements. Some states have strict residency rules, requiring you to live there for at least a year before you can file. Others do not have any residency requirements at all. Before you begin the divorce process, you will first verify whether you and your spouse meet your state’s residency requirements.

You will need to either file in the state where one of you meets the residency requirement, or wait until the other is eligible to file in the other state. If you both meet your respective residency requirements, additional considerations apply.

Step #2: Interpret State Laws and Jurisdiction

State divorce laws vary significantly, and where you choose to file for divorce will depend on a number of factors. Rules for child support, alimony, and custody, for example, may be more favorable to your case in one state, while another state’s rules would lead to an unfavorable outcome.

In addition, certain courts may not have jurisdiction over specific matters, and you may want to file for divorce in another court. A court may be able to finalize the divorce, but it may not have the power to enforce custody orders or alimony payments.

Generally speaking, the first person who files for divorce will take jurisdiction over the proceedings. To ensure you file your divorce claim in a favorable state, speak to a divorce attorney as soon as possible.

Your lawyer will have knowledge of divorce laws in your state, and will be able to interpret the laws in your spouse’s state to determine which filing option would be in your best interest. Your Indianapolis divorce lawyer will also advise you whether or not you would need to hire an attorney in your home state or your spouse’s.

Step #3: Provide Your Spouse Proper Notice

Courts typically honor divorces that take place in another state, but the court may not honor a divorce order if you did not properly notify your spouse of the proceedings. In these situations, you will need to serve your spouse with the divorce papers. You can hire a qualified individual, such as a sheriff or process server, to provide notice to your spouse on your behalf.

Other options for notifying your spouse of the divorce proceedings are available, such as sending the divorce papers through certified mail. However, the court will refuse to recognize your divorce if you failed to provide proper notice. Speak to your divorce attorney to ensure you meet each state’s requirements for proper notice.

Consult with an Attorney for Multi-State Divorces

Divorces involving multiple states can be highly complex, and you want to ensure that you protect your best interests throughout the process. Before filing the divorce paperwork or serving your spouse, speak to your lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney will advise you on which state to file in, how to notify your spouse, and how to best approach the proceedings.