Before you can file for divorce in any state you must meet that state’s residency requirements. In New Jersey, the residency requirement is one year. California has a six month residency requirement with a period of three months in the county. Once you have met a particular state’s residency requirement you are eligible to file for divorce in that state regardless of where you were married. Except in certain unusual circumstances, each state will recognize the divorce decree of the other state.
Notwithstanding the above however, the issue of jurisdiction can be a very complicated one in a divorce action, especially if the non-filing spouse lives in another state. In some cases a court will grant the divorce and the status of the marriage will be determined but the issue of the division of property or other collateral issues will remain unresolved. Furthermore, in child custody cases there is a specific statute which may control, known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which provides guidance on which state should have jurisdiction.
Generally, however, if both parties live in a state different than that in which they were married, and meet that new state’s residency requirements, they are eligible to file for divorce in the new state and have that divorce decree recognized by all other states.
Joseph Weinberg is a senior partner of the Haddonfield, NJ-based firm of Weinberg, McCormick, Chatzinoff & Zoll. He has practiced family law in New Jersey for more than 35 years and has received numerous honors for his dedicated commitment to the practice of family law; Weinberg was recently recognized as one of the "Ten Leaders of Matrimonial and Divorce Law of Southern New Jersey".