You got married in California. You and your spouse lived in California together for years. Now you’ve decided to get a divorce and your spouse has moved to Florida. What happens in a divorce when you and your spouse live in different states? Can you go through the process in California? Who gets to decide where the divorce will occur?

California Divorce Residency Requirements

If you want to get a divorce in California you’ll have to satisfy the state’s residency requirements. Here’s what you need to know.

Only One Spouse Has to Satisfy Residency Requirements. The state recognizes that not all married couples will live together in the state when they decide to get divorced. Maybe your spouse took a new job out of state or moved to be closer to family. Whatever the reason, California understands. So as not to make getting a divorce next-to-impossible for some couples, the state only requires one spouse to satisfy its residency requirements. It doesn’t matter which spouse – the petitioner or respondent – lives in the state. All that matters is that one of you does.

Resident of California For Six Months. One spouse must have been a resident of the state of California for no less than six months before filing for divorce. A person is considered a resident when you have a physical presence in and financial obligations to the state. Is California the primary state to which you pay taxes? If so, you’re a resident.

Resident of the County For Three Months. In order to begin the divorce process, one spouse (the petitioner) must file divorce papers with their local County court clerk. If you (or your spouse) live in Los Angeles County, you’d file the divorce papers with the Los Angeles County Clerk. You (or your spouse) must have lived in that county for at least three months before filing for divorce.

Where Should We Get Divorced If We Live in Different States?

You live in California, but your spouse now lives in Florida. Which state should you get divorced in? It depends. You’ll need to consider a few different things.

  • Where have we satisfied the state’s residency requirements?
  • Which state’s divorce laws are most beneficial to us?
  • Where do children who will be affected by the separation live?

Different states have different divorce laws. It’s important to consider the laws of the states in which you could potentially get a divorce. Determine which state’s laws would be best for your particular situation.

For example, consider each state’s property division laws. Nine states, including California, are community property states. Each spouse in a divorce is entitled to one-half of all community property. Most other states, including Florida, are equitable distribution states. Spouses are awarded an equitable, or fair, share of marital property. Equitable doesn’t always mean equal. One spouse can walk away with a much larger share of the marital assets in an equitable distribution state.

Do you want half of your marital property or do you think you deserve more? You’ll get half in California, but might be able to get more (or less) in Florida. That’s a decision you’ll have to make.

What If We Want To Get Divorced In Different States?

You and your spouse can’t agree on which state should oversee your divorce proceedings. Who gets to make the final decision? Let’s say both states have jurisdiction – meaning that you satisfy all requirements to get divorced in both. The divorce will happen in the state where the divorce papers are filed first.

If you live in California and file a day before your spouse files in Florida, you’ll get divorced in California. If your spouse beats you to the punch, you’ll get divorced in Florida. That is, unless you can get them to agree to navigate the process in California.