I had a justice of the peace marriage in one state followed by a church wedding in another. What state’s laws govern in the event that I want to obtain a divorce?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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If you are married and considering a divorce, the state of your marriage is not a determining factor in where you divorce. You will need to get a divorce in the state that you are a resident of now.

Residency Requirements

Different states have different rules for divorce. While all states recognize “no fault” grounds for divorce, the waiting periods or other actual procedural requirements associated with a divorce may be different from one jurisdiction to the next. Furthermore, there are different systems in place that are used for the distribution of property depending on where you live. Nine states across the U.S. use community property rules and divide everything 50-50, while the remaining states use an equitable distribution system.

Because there can be some significant differences in these divorce laws and requirements, and because it is assumed that each state has the foremost interest in governing marital relations for people who live within its borders, there are residency requirements for divorce. In other words, you can’t just decide you like California law better and go to California to end your marriage if you live in New York.

The exact residency requirements may vary by state. In some jurisdictions, like Nevada, you only have to live in the state for 6 weeks before you can become a “resident” and file for divorce. In other areas, the waiting period is much longer.

So, all of this essentially means that you will need to get a divorce where either you or your spouse live now in order to meet the residency requirements and be eligible for divorce.

Getting Help

There are many procedural rules and requirements when it comes to the process of legally ending a marriage. In order to ensure that you comply with all of the requirements, from jurisdiction to notice, you’ll need a lawyer. Your attorney can also help to protect your rights and ensure that you get a fair divorce settlement and custody agreement in place.

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