Family Law

Divorce in a Different State or Country

Filing for divorce in one state while your spouse lives in another state can complicate your divorce. Filing for divorce in another country and seeking to have the court decree recognized in the United States can be even more difficult. In both situations, you will face two challenges - persuading the court to accept your case and persuading your state government to recognize your divorce.

State Residency Is a Requirement

If you've decided to file for divorce, you don't have to return to the state that issued your marriage license. In fact, that court will refuse to hear your case if you no longer live in the state. Instead, you must file for divorce in the state where you live or in the state where your spouse resides.

Each state has a residency requirement, meaning you must live there for a certain amount of time before you can file for divorce. Requirements vary from one state to another. In Missouri, you must be a resident for 90 days, while New Jersey has a one-year requirement. You can prove your residency with a state-issued driver's license, a lease, a voter registration card, and many other types of documents

States Usually Recognize Court Orders From Other States

Most states recognize court orders and official documents issued by other states. If Alabama issues you a driver's license, you can use it to drive in any state. Likewise, if you get divorced in one state, the decree will usually be recognized in every other state, although there are some exceptions. No state will recognize an interstate divorce if you failed to properly notify your spouse of the proceedings. If you have children or own property in a state that does not recognize your divorce, the state might refuse to enforce a property settlement or child custody order.

Only the Issuing Court Can Change a Divorce Decree

After your divorce is final, you might want to go back to court to request a change to the terms of your divorce decree. For instance, you might want to ask that the custody of your child be switched from your spouse to you. Although you don't have to return to the state that issued your marriage license to get a divorce, you do have to return to the state that granted your divorce to request that the terms of your divorce decree be changed. If you live in another state, that jurisdiction will generally be willing to enforce the new terms of your divorce decree, as long as your spouse was given proper notice of the proceedings.

A Foreign Divorce Might Not Be Recognized in the United States

You may travel to a foreign country to get a quick divorce. Perhaps you're a citizen of a foreign country. Either way, most states won't automatically recognize a foreign divorce decree, regardless of whether or not the marriage took place in the United States. Before a state will recognize a foreign divorce, two important requirements must be met - at least one spouse must have lived in the foreign country at the time of the divorce and the spouse residing in the United States must have been properly notified of the foreign divorce proceedings. In many cases, "proper notification" means notification in the manner described in an international treaty.

A Divorce Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding divorce across state lines and international borders is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a divorce lawyer.

Change Location

Get Started *Please enter a valid location.

Divorce Law Firms in Ashburn, VA 
change location

Swipe to view more

Get Professional Help

Find a Divorce lawyer
Practice Area:
Zip Code:
How It Works
  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Connect with local attorneys
Have a divorce question?
Get answers from local attorneys.
It's free and easy.
Ask a Lawyer