Each state has unique guidelines for the petition and filing for divorce, and these requirements extend to where you live during the dissolution of your marriage. California, in particular, has strict residency requirements for those who wish to file for divorce, and it is almost impossible to get out of them. However, in certain situations, there may be ways around California divorce residency requirements with the help of a skilled attorney.
Residency Laws in California
For a married couple to divorce in California, one person involved in the marriage must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This is a standard form that requires the petitioner to check a box, under penalty of perjury, that states that either party involved in the divorce has been a resident in the state of California for at least six months and has also been a resident in the county they’re filing in for at least three months. However, the law only requires that one party comply with these residency requirements. If you don’t meet the residency requirements, but your spouse does, you’re still eligible to file within California.
If you want to get divorced in a particular city within the state, you have a few options:
- Wait to file the action until you’ve fulfilled the residency requirement. For example, if you want to get divorced in Los Angeles, you only need to be a resident of the city for three months. Waiting for a little longer might be beneficial, especially if you establish a legal date of separation with a family law attorney.
- Instead of filing for dissolution of marriage (divorce), consider a legal separation instead. There are no residency requirements for legal separation in California, and you can amend the petition once you meet the residency requirement. The main advantage of this arrangement is access to the Family Law Court, which will allow you to file temporary orders for child support, spousal support, and other forms of relief. It also allows you to begin the mandatory six month waiting period for divorce in California from the date of the separation, not the date of when you fulfilled the residency requirement.
- In cases of domestic violence, you may file for a legal separation and a judge will hear your domestic violence and separation case at the same time. In this scenario, you may be able to receive additional protections (such as a restraining order) while waiting to meet residency requirements.
- If you feel you cannot wait to meet California’s residency requirements, your last recourse will be to file in the state where you previously held residence. While this may expedite the divorce process, keep in mind that it will involve a lot of travel and meetings with out-of-state lawyers, which can be costly.
Getting Around Residency Requirements in California
If you’re contemplating divorce, you likely want the process over as soon as possible. Unfortunately, divorce proceedings are lengthy by their very nature. Many states have mandatory waiting periods and a proceeding can take six months or longer. Residency requirements only require you to live in California for a period of six months, so a legal separation can be an attractive option for those who want to divorce but must wait to comply with residency guidelines. You’re offered the essential protections of divorce, but you’re not required to live in California or your county for any specified length of time.
If you’re contemplating divorce for any reason, a family lawyer can help you explore your options. If you fear for your own or your children’s safety, don’t wait – seek help from an attorney as soon as possible.