Living in Different States: Where Should You File for Divorce

So you and your spouse have been separated for a while, you are all but divorced except for making it official, but you live in different states. You guys are finally ready to file for divorce, but now the big question is, “Which state do you file for divorce?” As with most family law questions, the answer is not black and white, because it depends. Say, you live in Arkansas, but your spouse has moved to Texas and you got married in Oklahoma.  Who gets to decide where the divorce will occur? Before we can answer these questions, a few other factors must be determined such as: Do you meet residency requirements? Which state’s laws are most beneficial to you?

Before we begin, the state you got married in does not matter if you do not meet the residency requirements.

Residency Requirements

The most common way spouses are eligible to use a specific court system is by meeting the state residency requirements. These laws vary by state. Whichever state you file in, one of you must meet those requirements. To file for divorce in Arkansas the following must be met:

  • A spouse must be a resident of the state of Arkansas for at least 60 days before filing for divorce. The divorce will not be finalized until a three-month waiting period has passed after the initial filing.
  • The proceedings will be in the county where the complainant (the person filing for divorce) resides. The only time this will not be the case is if the complainant is a nonresident of the state of Arkansas, but the defendant is. In this case, the proceedings will be held in the county where the defendant resides. In any event, the courts may be directed to any county in the state. (Arkansas Code – Title 9 – Chapter: 12-303.)
  • Another exception is if the actions are initiated by the Office of Child Support Enforcement of the Revenue Division of the Department of Finance and Administration of Human Services, proceedings may also be in the county where the defendant resides.

Which State’s Laws are Most Beneficial?

It is important to consider which state’s laws are most favorable to you. If you and your spouse both agree to the material terms of the divorce, the state in which you file may not matter. Unfortunately, most divorces are not straightforward. Many states vary on how issues related to alimony, child support, child custody, and property division are handled.

Be cautious if your spouse is pushing you to file for divorce in a specific state, because it may be most beneficial to him or her and not to you. Before you agree to anything, you must understand the laws governing divorce and child custody in each state. Although you may feel like giving in to “keep the peace”, these are decisions that will affect you and your children forever. Kevin Hickey Law Partners will help you understand the laws to aid you in making the best decision for you and your children. If your spouse starts pushing for a divorce in his or her state, you must act fast, because if he or she beats you to the punch, you will get divorced in that state.

Whichever state the divorce is filed in, notice must be provided in some form. You can have the documents sent via certified mail, publishing the divorce notice in the newspaper for a specified period of time, or the preferred method is by having him or her served. When someone is served, it is either by a sheriff or other qualified individual provides the divorce documents to the other spouse.

Although the court lacks jurisdiction over one spouse due to lack of residency, the courts have jurisdiction over the marriage itself. However, some courts may not be able to make decisions on certain matters such as decisions regarding property in another state or they may not be able to make decisions related to child custody. Let Kevin Hickey Law Partners help you navigate the various divorce laws to determine what the best decisions are for you. Our expertise and experience will weigh each scenario and the outcome of each of them.


Cover Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash