Understanding California's Residency Requirements in a Los Angeles Divorce Case
Not everybody can file for a divorce in Los Angeles County. You must first meet the residency requirements. In order to get a divorce in California, at least one spouse must meet the California residency requirements.
This means that at least one spouse must have lived in the state of California for six months. Additionally, they must have lived in the county where they are filing for the last three months.
If spouses have lived in different counties for at least three months, they can file for divorce in either county. If you or your spouse has recently moved to California, you can't just get past the residency requirement.
In other words, this California residency requirement is mandatory, meaning it's absolutely necessary for the court to have the authority to enter a judgment of “dissolution of marriage.”
However, it doesn't necessarily you don't have any legal options to pursue a divorce. For example, one spouse can file a petition for legal separation and for divorce. Filing for legal separation in California has no residency requirements.
Once this petition for legal separation is filed and served, the filing spouse can then just wait until they meet the minimum six-month residency requirement and “amend” the legal separation petition to dissolution of marriage. “Residency” is the term given to where you live.
Residency is not a legal presumption. It is fact-specific. Even if, for example, you have a bank account in another state, work elsewhere or title your car outside California, these factors will not necessarily negate your California residency status.
When a spouse pursues this legal course of action in Los Angeles family law cases, the filing date of the amended petition for dissolution of marriage is the date that the divorce court acquired power to grant the divorce for the purposes of meeting the three-month and six-month residency.
When filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (California Form FL-100), the petitioner must state, under oath, that they meet the Residency Requirements. As with any sworn statement, a false statement is subject to perjury. The signature line on that form makes that clear. If one spouse lives in another state, that state may also have jurisdiction for a divorce proceeding. Each state has different divorce laws. If you have any questions about the residency requirements, call the Los Angeles divorce lawyer at Furman & Zavatsky LLP.
What about Domestic Partnerships for Nontraditional Couples?
California does have an exception to the residency requirement rule. Same-sex married couples who were married California, but live in another state that won't dissolve same-sex marriages, can file for a divorce in California regardless of residency requirements.
They can file for divorce in the county where they were married. If the couple is registered in domestic partnership in California, they don't have to meet the same residency requirements as traditional married couples. Additionally, even if they never lived in California or they moved away, they can still end their domestic partnership by filing in California.
If the couple registered their domestic partnership in another state and decide to file for separation within that state, they have to meet the residency requirements. As stated above, its six months of residing in California and three months in the county where they want to file for a divorce. California was the first state to recognize “domestic partnerships.”
A couple that registered their domestic partnership in California automatically agreed to California jurisdiction to dissolve their union – even if they never lived in the state or relocated. If a domestic partnership was registered, this is an exception from the residency requirements to which married couples are subject.
Again, it's important to note that if the domestic partnership was not registered in California, the same residency requirements apply. For more information, contact the Los Angeles divorce attorneys at our law firm.
Why You Would File For Legal Separation If You don't Meet the Residency Requirements?
If you don't meet the residency requirements in California, you can still file for a legal separation described above. When enough time passes to satisfy the California Residency Requirements, you can amend or update your court filings to ask for a divorce.
But, under what conditions would you need to file for legal separation instead of just waiting to meet the six month requirement? One situation includes the need for temporary orders, such as child custody or child support.
In this scenario, if you don't pursue a legal separation, you could be placing yourself in a very difficult financial situation or your children might be put in a situation of being in a dangerous environment, such as abuse or even abduction.
If you file for a legal separation, you will be able to obtain temporary orders which can have a huge impact on your financial situation because you are requesting child support and/or alimony. If your kids are at risk, this action could give them vital protection without waiting to meet California's residency requirements.
Additionally, filing for a legal separation will allow you to seek protection of the automatic temporary restraining orders (ATROS) that will go into effect any time a legal separation or a divorce is filed.
Understanding the residency requirements and your legal options is a critical part of strategy in any divorce case when you the protections of the Los Angeles Family Law Court. Talking with our experienced Los Angeles divorce lawyers who can walk you through this process can be beneficial.
Do the Requirements Change if one Spouse is in the Military?
In the event that one spouse is in the military and is deployed to another location outside the state, California Residency Requirements still apply (although ‘being stationed' in California counts towards residency). But there are laws to protect active duty military members from inadvertently “defaulting” if they don't respond to a complaint (petition) for divorce in a timely manner, such as the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act. A member of the military can acknowledge or waive service by affidavit.
What Happens if I File Prematurely?
If you file prematurely, the Court will most likely not accept your Petition for Dissolution (divorce), or your case will be dismissed. We encourage you to talk about the different options with our experienced family law attorneys to avoid the time, expense, and burden of having to file again.
What Can I Constructively Do Before I Meet the Residency Requirements?
Although the court process can seem complicated and overwhelming, from our experience the smoothest, most cost-effective divorcing couples use a ‘business dissolution' approach. We realize there are many emotions in play, and often hard feelings come up.
We also recognize it's easier said than done to encourage cooperation and civility. From our experience, we have found that focusing on tasks at hand helps couples. Here are a few examples of what you can do to lessen conflict and smooth the road:
- Get organized and do your homework
- Continue (or start) good healthy habits (fitness, nutrition)
- Focus on yourself (physically, emotionally, spiritually)
- Work on your financial matters (bank statements, W2s, tax returns, budgets, credit cards, insurance policies, car titles, house deeds, apartment lease)
- Openly talk with your children
- Find tools to resolve conflict (we know — that's why you're getting divorced, but it's never too late to learn)
- Ask for support from friends, family, and from experienced professionals
- Stay focused (there is a light at the end of the tunnel)
Call Our Experienced Los Angeles Divorce Attorneys
If you are thinking about initiating a divorce in the state of California, residency requirements might play into the timeline. The Los Angeles divorce attorneys at Furman and Zavatsky LLP are experienced in this area of family law and can help you navigate the potentially confusing areas of California residency requirements in the event of a divorce. To schedule a consultation to discuss the details of your case, call us today at 818-528-3471, or contact us online.