If You Were Married in One State but Now Live in Another State, Which State’s Law Would Apply if You Divorce?

Many people wonder whether they must file for divorce in the state (or even the country) where they were married, even if they never resided there or no longer reside in that state or country and have not resided there for months or years.

The answer to the question of whether one must file for divorce in the state (or even the country) where one was married is: no. You can file for divorce in the state where you or your spouse currently reside(s).

In the context of divorce, “reside” or “residency” has a specific and objective meaning. With the exception of a few states, you cannot simply consider or declare yourself a resident of a state for divorce filing purposes, you must meet requirements for establishing residency before you qualify to file for divorce in a particular state.

Based upon the research I conducted in responding to this question, the states with the shortest residency requirements are, and I have provided a list below. This list consists of generalities. I do not claim that my research is perfectly accurate, there are other requirements that can affect qualifications for filing for divorce in certain states and remember that states can change their residency requirements. Before you decide to file for divorce in a particular state, confer with an attorney in that state to ensure you and/or your spouse meet(s) all residency requirements):

SHORTEST (0 days)

Alaska, South Dakota, Washington

You have to stay there after you file for divorce, but you don’t have to have lived there a minimum period of time before filing for divorce.

LONGEST (one year)

Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, West Virginia


New York kind of fits in both the shortest and the longest categories, but only under certain circumstances. There is no minimum period of time required to establish residency if both spouses live in New York and the cause for divorce occurred in New York. Otherwise, it’s 365 days if 1) one spouse lived in New York one year, and 2) the couple must have either been married in New York or lived in New York at some point in time as a married couple. If only one spouse lives in New York and none of the factors above apply, you can’t qualify as a resident for divorce purposes until you have resided in New York for 730 days.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

Eric Johnson’s answer to If you got married in one state but live in another, which state’s rules would apply if you divorce? – Quora

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