One of the first things you must consider when filing for a divorce in California is how long you have lived here. California, like all states, has a residency requirement you must meet before your request for a divorce will be considered. If you do not meet the criteria, your case will be dismissed. Still, options are available to get things started on your divorce even if you have not resided in the state long enough.
How Long Do I Have to Live in CA to File for a Divorce?
To successfully petition for a divorce in California, you must have been a resident of the state for at least 6 months. You also must have lived in the county you are filing in for at least 3 months.
The residency requirement applies to you or your spouse. In other words, either one of you can fulfill the criteria to begin the divorce. You both do not have to have lived in the state and county for the applicable time periods.
For example, if you have lived in California for a year but recently moved to Orange County and have been there only a month, you wouldn’t be able to petition for a divorce in that county. However, if your spouse has resided in California for a year and lived in Los Angeles throughout that time, they could submit a petition to an LA County Court.
What Happens If I Don’t Meet the Residency Requirements?
If neither you nor your spouse fulfills the residency requirements or your spouse meets them but isn’t willing to file a petition, you have a couple of avenues to explore to begin the divorce proceedings.
First, you can wait until you have been a resident of the state and county for the required time periods.
Yet, we recognize that in some cases, one or both of the parties involved might want to get things moving forward right away. If that’s your situation, you can file for a legal separation.
A legal separation is similar to a divorce in that various matters are settled, such as:
One of the differences between a legal separation and a divorce is that once the process for the former is completed, you and your spouse are still legally married.
Another distinction between the two is that a legal separation does not have a residency requirement in that either of you must have lived in the state or the county for a certain amount of time. The only requirement is that one of you has resided in California, regardless of how long.
After you are legally separated, you can wait until you meet California’s residency requirements. Once you do, you can change your legal separation petition to a divorce.
Do My Spouse and I Have to Be Separated While We Wait to Meet Residency Requirements?
California does not require couples to be separated to file for a divorce. Even if you and your spouse are living together, you can submit a petition once you meet residency requirements.
You can also live separately and in different counties. You can file for divorce when one of you has been a resident of a county for at least 3 months.
Can I File for a Divorce in CA If My Spouse Lives in Another State?
Provided that you meet California’s residency requirements, you can petition for divorce here even if your spouse lives in another state. Also, you need not have been married in California to get a divorce in this state. However, in this situation, a California court might not be able to make orders on certain issues, such as child custody, if it does not have jurisdiction over them. But the court can still legally end your marriage.
It might be the case that your spouse meets the residency requirements of the state where they live, and you meet those of California. You may wonder, then, where you should file for your divorce. You or your spouse can submit a petition in the state where either you live. Generally, the court having jurisdiction over the case is the one where the request was first filed. Thus, if your spouse files first, a county court in the state where they live will handle the matter. If you file first, a county court in California will hear the case.
Which state handles your divorce can become an additional area of contention. Laws concerning family matters are different in each state. Therefore, how things are settled may favor one spouse over the other. It may be in your best interests to discuss your case with a family law attorney before deciding where to file for a divorce.
Reach Out to Claery & Hammond, LLP Today
Our Los Angeles team can thoroughly explain the requirements for getting a divorce in California. We can help you understand your options and compassionately guide you through the process.
To speak with us during a free consultation, please call (310) 817-6904 or submit an online contact form today.