What Factors Determine Divorce Jurisdiction?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 February 2020
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Jurisdiction is a legal term used to describe what court has the right of judgment over an issue, person, or case. Divorce jurisdiction is often determined by the region of residence of the couple. Those with multiple residences may run into questions of divorce jurisdiction.

Divorce laws vary from region to region, based on state and federal laws. This means that the laws of the state with jurisdiction will determine the divorce laws; for instance, if a state with no-fault divorce laws has jurisdiction, the couple cannot cite legal grounds for divorce such as adultery. Understanding the divorce laws of a region can help determine how to file for divorce, as well as giving a good idea of how the process will proceed.

Residency is usually the main factor used to determine divorce jurisdiction. Regions have different residency laws; in many areas, a person must prove residency for six months or a year before being legally able to file for divorce in the area. Some areas, such as Reno, Nevada, are known for having extremely low residency requirements in order to facilitate fast divorces.


For couples with multiple residences, or who meet requirements in several regions, it may be important to understand the difference between the laws in each qualifying area. Property, custody, and alimony laws may benefit or hurt one spouse or the other in a divorce. For that reason, it is important to carefully consider where divorce papers are filed in order to obtain a satisfactory division of assets and liabilities.

Divorce jurisdiction is usually quite simple as long as both parties live in the same region. If, however, one has vacated the region or country, jurisdiction can become more complicated. Some couples undergo a long separation before divorcing, during which time one or both parties may move out of the original region. In some cases, a court can dissolve a marriage based on one spouse's request, even if the other spouse is unreachable or unwilling to return to the area. This process is known as personal jurisdiction, and allows the court to act on a case even if one spouse is not involved in the proceedings.

International divorce jurisdiction can be a complicated and confusing process to undergo. If divorcing spouses are from two different home countries or have multiple citizenship, the question of divorce jurisdiction becomes very difficult to decide. While one court may have the right to dissolve a union, it may not be able to divide property based outside of the country. To avoid severe hassles should a divorce occur, many attorneys advise international couples to have a clear and legal prenuptial agreement that determines the division of all assets. International divorces can take years to settle fully, so it may be in the interest of both parties to prepare for this eventuality in a responsible manner.


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