Divorce Across State Lines

What If My Spouse Lives In Another State?

This question comes up frequently in Michigan divorce cases. Often, one spouse will be transferred out of state for work, or will simply seek a change of scenery. This can cause confusion if you decide to file for a divorce. So what do you do?

Divorce & Marriage Are a Matter of State Law

Family law falls under the jurisdiction of state governments rather than the federal government. Determining the appropriate state and circuit court for filing a divorce involves considerations of jurisdiction and venue. Jurisdiction in divorce matters grants specific state circuit courts (such as those in Michigan) the power and authority to issue legally binding orders, which parties must adhere to under penalty of sanctions, including fines and imprisonment. Venue, on the other hand, determines the specific state circuit court (like Wayne County  Circuit Court) where the case should be filed.

Divorce Lawyer Near Me

If My Spouse Lives in Another State, In Which State Should I File for Divorce?

Your first step is determining which state has jurisdiction. When both spouses reside in Michigan, then it is fairly simple to determine that Michigan would have the proper jurisdiction for their divorce. It becomes a bit more complicated if your spouse has moved out of state.

Either the person filing for divorce or the person against whom the divorce is being filed must have resided in the State of Michigan for at least 180 days immediately preceding the date of the filing of the complaint for divorce.  Filing the complaint for divorce gets the divorce process started.

In the case where one spouse has moved out of Michigan to another state, then jurisdiction might be appropriate in either state.  If the parties were married in another state, never lived together in Michigan and one spouse moved here after separation, then Michigan may not have jurisdiction over the party that has never resided in Michigan.  Consultation with a divorce attorney in these instances is always a good idea before getting started with the divorce.

How Do I Know In Which Circuit Court I Should File For Divorce?

Once jurisdiction is determined, the next step is to determine the venue.  Venue is established when one of the parties has resided in any particular county for at least 10 days.  If both parties still reside in the same county, then venue is clearly only appropriate in that county.  So for instance, if both parties lived in Wayne County during the marriage and are residing there at the time of the filing for divorce, then the only appropriate court would be the Wayne County Circuit Court.

If one spouse has moved out of the county where the spouses resided during the marriage and the other spouse remained in the county where they resided together, then venue may be appropriate in either the county where they resided and the one spouse remains or in the county to which the other spouse has moved.

It isn’t always clear as to whether one must file in the county where the defendant (the person against whom the divorce complaint is filed) resides or in either county. As of right now, it appears that the complaint can be filed in either county.  If a divorce appears imminent and your spouse has moved to another county, then it might be wise to file in the county that you would prefer to have the case proceed rather than waiting for your spouse to file first essentially allowing them to pick where the case will proceed.

Filing for divorce is not always simple, even in a no-fault divorce state like Michigan. This is why hiring a local divorce attorney is so important if you live in the Downriver area.

Contact The Mitten Law Firm today to discuss how to best proceed with your divorce case.