Divorce Requirements FAQ

Durational residency requirements for all fifty states, and more.

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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.

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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*

Alabama6 Months or 180 Days
AlaskaNo statutory provision
Arizona90 Days
Arkansas60 Days
California6 Months or 180 Days
Colorado90 Days
Connecticut12 Months or 1 Year
Delaware6 Months or 180 Days
District of Columbia6 Months or 180 Days
Florida6 Months or 180 Days
Georgia6 Months or 180 Days
Hawaii6 Months or 180 Days
Idaho6 Weeks
Illinois90 Days
Indiana6 Months or 180 Days
Iowa12 Months or 1 Year
Kansas60 Days
Kentucky6 Months or 180 Days
Louisiana6 Months or 180 Days
Maine6 Months or 180 Days
Maryland12 Months or 1 Year
Massachusetts12 Months or 1 Year1
Michigan6 Months or 180 Days
Minnesota6 Months or 180 Days
Mississippi6 Months or 180 Days
Missouri90 Days
Montana90 Days
Nebraska12 Months or 1 Year
Nevada6 Weeks
New Hampshire12 Months or 1 Year
New Jersey12 Months or 1 Year2
New Mexico6 Months or 180 Days
New York12 Months or 1 Year
North Carolina6 Months or 180 Days
North Dakota6 Months or 180 Days
Ohio6 Months or 180 Days
Oklahoma6 Months or 180 Days
Oregon6 Months or 180 Days
Pennsylvania6 Months or 180 Days
Rhode Island12 Months or 1 Year
South Carolina12 Months or 1 Year3
South DakotaNo Statutory Provision
Tennessee6 Months or 180 Days
Texas6 Months or 180 Days
Utah90 Days
Vermont6 Months or 180 Days
Virginia6 Months or 180 Days
WashingtonNo Statutory Provision
West Virginia12 Months or 1 Year4
Wisconsin6 months or 180 Days
Wyoming60 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.

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