In many cases, a married couple that decides to separate can wind up residing in different states. Is it possible for two spouses to file for divorce at the same time in different states? The answer is yes… under certain conditions.
It is not uncommon for two spouses to initiate divorce proceedings in two different states—especially for military families. Of course, a spouse must meet a state’s residency requirements before filing for divorce, which essentially dictates how long a person must live in a specific area before filing a complaint. Note that you are limited to only filing for divorce in the states where you and your spouse reside.
When spouses file for divorce at roughly the same time, this is known as “concurrent filing.” A divorce pending in two different states can complicate the process, and extend the amount of time needed to finalize a divorce. Ultimately, however, only one state can issue the final divorce judgment—thus terminating the case in the other state.
The question often asked in this scenario is which divorce proceeding wins? Generally, the state that acquires jurisdiction is the state where the filing of papers was done first. The courts are also more likely to hear the case of the spouse that served papers on the other spouse first. This is known as first-in-time jurisdiction.
It may be easy to establish jurisdiction if your spouse regularly travels to your state and you can serve your spouse while he or she is there, or if your spouse willingly agrees to be under the jurisdiction of your state. However, your spouse may actively attempt to avoid service if he or she refuses to be under the jurisdiction of your state, which can make things more difficult for you.
If your spouse does not come to your state, then the court will need to examine numerous factors to establish if jurisdiction is proper. The court is more likely to assert jurisdiction over your spouse if he or she has several ties to your state, such as if your spouse frequently travels there, has family there, works there, or owns property there. If you reside in a state that your spouse has no connection to, then jurisdiction will be challenging.
If your spouse is in a different county or state as you and you have reason to believe that he or she may file for divorce, it would be most advantageous to be proactive and file and serve the other spouse as soon as you can. This is because litigating outside your county or state can be costly, inconvenient, and stressful. It is therefore important to consult with a divorce attorney as soon as possible to avoid going through divorce proceedings in another state, where you may not obtain the best results.