Getting Divorced When Multiple States are Involved

MapIn this age of rapid and free movement between states a common issue that can occur is a divorce across several states. The question that arises in these kinds of divorces is: in which state will the divorce take place? And which state’s laws will govern? This can make a huge difference as the laws between how division of property or support is ordered can be radically different.

Generally, the answer to both of these questions is that the state to lawfully acquire jurisdiction first is the appropriate forum and has their laws govern the proceeding. “Acquiring jurisdiction” usually means that a party lives in the state (a requisite period of time), is able to file for divorce first, and, is able to serve the other party their divorce paperwork first. Thus, a common occurrence is that both parties will file near simultaneously and then each will race to serve the other to acquire jurisdiction first.

The state to acquire jurisdiction first however, does not mean that all issues of controlling law are resolved. If there is a defect in the initial paperwork it can be subject to a motion to quash. Or, alternatively, the state to acquire jurisdiction first could nevertheless be inclined to use the laws of a different state when effectuating the divorce.

Multi-state divorces for same sex couples in particular tend to have an extra layer of complication. For example, although the Supreme Court has ruled that the right of same sex couples is a fundamental right to marry (and thus divorce), many states are simply not equipped to handle all aspects of gay and lesbian divorces. For example, although Kentucky is now compelled to allow gay couples to marry and divorce, the state laws do not contain any legal mechanism to dissolve domestic partnership. So even if a Kentucky court acquires jurisdiction first in a divorce there are aspects that may need to be resolved elsewhere, such as California.

The San Francisco based lawyers of Jones & Devoy have experience in multi-state divorce actions and can help you understand the best way forward in your divorce action even if it is occurring across the country.