Divorce Requirements FAQ
Durational residency requirements for all fifty states, and more.
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. See the Durational Residency by State chart, below.
If you think that your spouse will 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 one spouse move to a different state or country to get a divorce?
If one spouse meets the residency requirement of a state or country, a divorce obtained there is valid, even if the other spouse lives somewhere else. The courts of all states will recognize the divorce.
Any decisions that court makes regarding property division, alimony, custody and child support, however, may not be valid unless the nonresident spouse consented to the jurisdiction of the court. This can happen if the nonresident spouse shows up at a court date or signs 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.
If you receive documents from a foreign country, you may want to consult an attorney to advise you of whether your state court or the foreign court governs the issues. This depends on many factors, such as which particular country is involved, where the parties lived and for how long and, of course, whether children are involved.
Durational Residency by State*
|Alabama||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Alaska||No statutory provision|
|California||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Connecticut||12 Months or 1 Year|
|Delaware||6 Months or 180 Days|
|District of Columbia||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Florida||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Georgia||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Hawaii||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Indiana||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Iowa||12 Months or 1 Year|
|Kentucky||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Louisiana||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Maine||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Maryland||12 Months or 1 Year|
|Massachusetts||12 Months or 1 Year1|
|Michigan||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Minnesota||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Mississippi||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Nebraska||12 Months or 1 Year|
|New Hampshire||12 Months or 1 Year|
|New Jersey||12 Months or 1 Year2|
|New Mexico||6 Months or 180 Days|
|New York||12 Months or 1 Year|
|North Carolina||6 Months or 180 Days|
|North Dakota||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Ohio||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Oklahoma||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Oregon||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Pennsylvania||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Rhode Island||12 Months or 1 Year|
|South Carolina||12 Months or 1 Year3|
|South Dakota||No Statutory Provision|
|Tennessee||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Texas||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Vermont||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Virginia||6 Months or 180 Days|
|Washington||No Statutory Provision|
|West Virginia||12 Months or 1 Year4|
|Wisconsin||6 months or 180 Days|
*Where a residency requirement says something like "6 months or 180 days," the statute itself will specify whether the requirement is "whichever is longer" or "whichever is shorter." When in doubt, wait until the longer of the two time periods (which will only differ by a matter of days) has expired, unless it is critically important that your divorce be final by a certain date. In that case, check the statute.
1If cause for divorce occurred in Massachusetts, there is no residency requirement. If it occurred out of state, the requirement is one year.
2Required for all grounds but adultery
3If both spouses are residents of South Carolina, the residency requirement is reduced to 3 months.
4If marriage occurred in West Virginia, there is no residency requirement as long as one party is a state resident. If marriage occurred in another state, one party must have lived in West Virginia for a year before filing.