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New in Town: California’s Residency Requirement

If you are preparing for a divorce, don’t forget about California’s residency requirement. Depending on how long you have lived in the “Golden State,” this requirement may restrict your ability to get a divorce.  According to California’s residency requirement, divorces will only be granted to those who have lived in the state for at least six months.

The residency requirement’s goal is to keep spouses from rushing into divorce. Imagine, for example, that a married couple moves to Southern California to begin a new life together. In time, however, the spouses begin to find rain in Southern California. They argue and reach the point where being in the same room together is difficult. While such a scenario probably requires a divorce to remedy, there is also a chance that the move to a new state is to blame.  California’s residency requirement seems to take this attitude. The residency requirement gives couples time to cool off before filing for divorce.  Tensions may not disappear in six months, but if spouses are both new to California, they have half a year to try.

If, however, one of the spouses is already a California resident-that is, he or she has lived in the state for longer than six months prior to the marriage-then divorce can move forward. The divorce proceedings would then be subject to county-level residency requirements. Legally, spouses must be both residents of California and residents of the county in California where they wish to divorce.  Without either of these requirements, divorce will not be possible.  At the county level, spouses must wait three months before filing for divorce. Three months is an even shorter requirement than that of the state, but it too holds out the hope that perhaps a marriage can survive if both couples are willing to make an effort.