Where to File for Divorce

You thought the hard decision of whether or not to get a divorce was done. But there are still so many unanswered questions, like where do I file my paperwork? We can help with that. Here is a brief guide to determining where to file for divorce.

Divorce Jurisdiction

State courts have power (or "jurisdiction") over divorce proceedings, so the spouse seeking a divorce files an initial document called a divorce "petition" or "complaint" with his or her state court -- usually in the county or district branch of the state's "superior" or "circuit" court.

In some states, the superior or circuit court will have a specific family court division where the divorce petition is filed and the case is heard. In other states, no specific family court division is designated, so the divorce petition is filed in the main civil division of the superior or circuit court. In heavily populated areas, the county or district branch of the state court may itself have a number of facilities in different locations.

For example, in California the state's superior courts handle divorces, and they have facilities in each county in the state to do so. California also requires that one or both divorcing spouses have lived in California for the previous six months AND have lived in one of the state's counties for the previous three months. So, a couple who has been living in Los Angeles county for the past four years would file a divorce petition in the Superior Court of California -- County of Los Angeles.

You can check a list of state family courts or contact the local county/district branch of your state's court to learn more about where to file for divorce. Be aware that courts with jurisdiction for divorce cases may not be the same as courts with jurisdiction over child custody and visitation cases.

State and County/District Residency Requirements

Most states have their own residency requirements for people who wish to file for divorce in the state's court system -- rules as to the length of time a spouse must reside in a state before filing for divorce there. For example, as mentioned above, California requires that one or both divorcing spouses have lived in California for the previous six months. Other states require residence within the state for as little as six weeks to as long as one year before filing for divorce.

Before filing for divorce, you will most likely need to comply with not only your state's residency requirements, but also local county or district residency requirements. Check with the local county/district branch of your state's court to learn more about residency requirements for filing for divorce.

Have Questions About Where to File for Divorce? Get in Touch with an Attorney

Even the most amicable divorce can be a profoundly stressful experience. Divorces have many procedural requirements, and it can be challenging trying to figure out which forms you'll need and where to file for divorce. It's best to contact a local divorce attorney who will have experience with divorce procedures and give you advice based on your specific situation.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified divorce attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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