California's Residency Requirements in a Divorce

A marriage is far more than an emotional investment; it is also a financial investment as every married person will certainly confirm. In the state of California and in every other jurisdiction, there is what is called a "residency requirement," and this refers to how long you must have lived in the state of California before you can file for divorce. The topic over "jurisdiction" has been highly publicized in the media as of late with the infamous Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorce. Many in the legal profession have noted how Katie's decision to file for divorce in New York over the state of California was most certainly a tactical maneuver, especially since New York's reluctance to grant joint custody to volatile couples was most likely a key factor in her decision to file in New York.

For couples who have lived in the state of California all their lives or for a number of years, residency requirements aren't a cause for concern. However, for those couples that have recently moved to the sunshine state, or for those couples who split their time between continents or for affluent couples who keep homes on the East and West Coasts, then determining which court has jurisdiction will certainly be a key and dominating factor in their divorce. Not only that, but each state handles divorce differently. For example, the state of California is a community property state, whereas the state of New York is an equitable distribution state. When a high net worth divorce couple is considering divorce, choosing one state over another to file for divorce may very well be an important business decision.

In the state of California, the state's residency requirements for filing for divorce are covered under the California Family Code, Sections 2320-2322. Under §2320 of the Family Code, a judgment for divorce may not be entered unless one of the spouses have been a resident of California for at least six months and of the county for which the divorce proceeding is filed, and one of the parties must have lived in the county for which they are filing for at least three months.

Even though a marriage often dissolves immediately following a major upset or a big fight, it's important for people to remain calm and think things through before they do anything that can work against them later on. If you recently moved to California, or if you are planning to move out of state for a job or another reason, it's important to carefully review each relevant state's laws as they pertain to divorce before you make any decisions about when and where to file.

At Claery & Hammond, LLP, we are intimately familiar with California State laws as they pertain to residency requirements and all other relevant factors that you should consider. If you are contemplating divorce, then we urge you to contact us as soon as possible so we can advise you of your legal rights and help you prepare an action plan that can be to your greatest advantage in divorce.