Do You Have to File for Divorce in the State You Were Married in?

Spouses may decide to file for divorce after relocating from the state where they entered into a marriage. Can you file for divorce in another state if you didn’t start your marital relations there? Yes, you can; the situation of “married in one state, divorced in another” may happen anywhere, and Pennsylvania is not an exception.

Can I file for divorce in another state if my spouse and I live in different states than the one we got married in? Filing for divorce in another state is possible if you meet the local requirements and the court has jurisdiction over your case. Even if either spouse moves out of state before divorce, it is enough that the other one has lived in it long enough to submit the papers to the clerk.

In this article, we will examine the requirements for spouses who were married in another state but plan to file for divorce in Pennsylvania. We will also go over the specifics of marriage dissolution, including the filing fees and waiting period.

Can You Get Divorced in a Different State Than You Were Married in?

You can file for divorce in another state, no matter where your spouse lives, provided you follow the local legal rules regarding the process.

Can you divorce in a different state than you were married? In short, yes, you can; if you got married and then moved out of state, divorce can be started elsewhere if, according to current legislation, the local court may decide over your case.

Filing for divorce after moving out of the state is also allowed in Pennsylvania. According to PA ST §3104(c), you can file for marriage dissolution in the state regardless of where you were married and where the grounds for divorce arose if you have been its resident for a sufficient period.

Things to Know When Getting a Divorce in Another State

When starting a divorce in a different state, you need to familiarize yourself with the local specifics of the process. In particular, you should learn more about the court’s jurisdiction, residency requirements, and ways to prove their fulfillment.


Jurisdiction for divorce determines whether the state court has the right to grant the dissolution of marriage and make a decision over its terms in your case.

Which court has jurisdiction over divorce depends on case-specific circumstances and state rules. If spouses got married, lived, and then decided to terminate the marriage in the same state, they should file for divorce with the local court.

If either party has changed their place of residence, they can submit papers for divorce in the state where they meet the residency requirements. If spouses live in different states, the case will be heard in the state where the petitioner files a lawsuit.

Where do you go to file for divorce? In most cases, you need to file divorce papers with the county court. You can visit the clerk’s office in person or e-file the paperwork if this option is implemented in county. In Pennsylvania, you can file for divorce in one of the Courts of Common Pleas. You can find the address you need on the official website of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania.

Do federal courts have jurisdiction over divorce cases? In general, the answer is no; federal courts may not decide over cases involving family law though there may be exceptions. Divorce cases are typically heard by the state courts.

Divorce Residency Requirements

You must meet residency requirements to file a divorce petition or complaint. If you have not lived in the state sufficiently long, in most cases, your documents will be rejected until you have been its resident for a certain amount of time.

In Pennsylvania, either spouse must have resided in the state for at least 6 months to start a divorce proceeding (PA ST §3104(b)) for the local court to have jurisdiction over the case.How Do You Prove Residency for Divorce?

You can confirm that you meet the residency requirements by providing the court with your ID, driver’s license, or voter registration card. Before filing for divorce, you should ask the court clerk whether and how you will need to prove that you have been a resident of the state. In some states, you may need additional documents; in others, you may have to provide a witness testimony.

In Pennsylvania, you must state whether the petitioner or the respondent has been a resident of the state for the last 6 months in your Complaint for Divorce.

Which States Have No Residency Requirements for Divorce?

A couple does not need to live in the state for some specific period to start a divorce in Alaska, South Dakota, and Washington; however, a petitioner must be a state resident at the time of filing with the court. In all other states, there are specific residency requirements to meet before submitting the papers for divorce.

The question “which states have no residency requirements for divorce?” is of interest to many spouses who are looking for a quick divorce. However, the process duration is affected not only by residency requirements but other factors such as a mandatory waiting period, the presence of disputes regarding the divorce terms, need for a trial, etc.

H3 Features of the Divorce Process

Divorce procedures can vary from state to state. Each of them has its requirements for completing paperwork, serving the defendant, etc. Here’s what you should pay attention to if you’re filing for divorce in another state.

  • The local rules for filing the paperwork and fees

The divorce papers you need to submit to the clerk’s office will be different for each state. Most of them require several divorce paperwork packages, depending on the case type. If you choose to proceed without legal representation, you will have to determine which one of them is suitable for your situation.

The set of forms you must file in Pennsylvania differs by case type. If it is contested or involves kids, the list of papers to prepare may be more extensive than for an uncontested one or without minor children, respectively. The filing fees may vary not only by state but also by county. In Pennsylvania, they average at $300 to $400; for example, in Philadelphia County, the fees are $333.73.

  • Service of process rules

After you file for divorce, you need to notify the other spouse that you have started the process. In some states, a petitioner must ask the sheriff, constable, or private process server to deliver the papers to the defendant; in others, it is also possible to use certified mail or avoid serving the respondent if they agree to wave official service.

In Pennsylvania, you can serve the required paperwork by using regular and certified mail with return receipt requested or by asking the sheriff, private courier service, or other person over 18 to deliver the documents. You have 30 days to serve the papers on the respondent if they live within the state and 90 days if outside of it.

You can also avoid the formal procedure if your spouse agrees to accept the papers and signs the Acceptance of Service form.

  • Waiting period

The duration of marriage dissolution depends on many factors, in particular, on the divorce waiting period by state. There is no mandatory waiting period in some states; in others, it can vary significantly and range from several weeks to several months.

There is a mandatory 90-day waiting period in Pennsylvania from the date the documents were served on the defendant. You cannot get a divorce until it is over.

H2 Divorce with Kids

Steps to divorce with a child may differ from the stages to go through if spouses do not have minors together. Getting divorced with kids in another state can be difficult and confusing, especially because not all courts can deal with cases involving minor children. In most states, a judge will decide on child custody and support provided kids have lived in their jurisdiction since birth or at least 6 months before divorce was initiated.

What happens when you divorce with a child depends on local requirements and regulations of the state where you file. You should consider the following factors that may affect the outcome of your divorce.

  • Child support calculation process

If you have a contested divorce, and children custody and maintenance issues cannot be resolved without judge’s intervention, the court will decide on the amount of child support instead of you. In each state, it is calculated according to a special formula. In some states, judges will determine it as a percentage of the parties’ income, while in others, they will use the Melson formula.

In Pennsylvania, the courts will compute it taking into account both parents’ income, the number of children, their needs, etc. If you want to roughly calculate the amount of child support in Pennsylvania, you can use a convenient online estimator.

  • The parenting class requirement

Many states require parents to complete parenting classes before the judge can approve the termination of marriage. The parenting class for divorce aims to help parents and children adapt to new living conditions. In Pennsylvania, a parenting program is not mandatory for attendance but may be court-ordered in some cases (PA ST §5332).

  • More extensive divorce documentation

When filing for divorce with minor children, you will likely have to prepare additional forms related to child custody, support, and visitation. Their list varies from state to state. You may contact the county clerk to ask what papers you need depending on the type of your case and other circumstances. If you were married in one state but changed your residence by moving to another state, you can still file for divorce. To submit papers to the clerk’s office and start the process, you need to make sure that the court has jurisdiction over your case and that you meet the local rules, including residency requirements.

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