Does CA Law Apply to My Divorce If I Was Married in Another State?

Southern California is full of people who moved here from other parts of the country, and oftentimes couples moved to California together after being married in another state. When such couples decide that it’s time to seek a divorce, a common preliminary question is what state’s laws will apply to the divorce and what courts the couple must go to in order to seek a divorce.

A California Divorce is Binding Regardless of What State Granted the Marriage

Marriages and divorces are primarily regulated by state law, but our system of government recognizes that couples can and do end up going to different states throughout the course of their marriage. Because of this, under our constitutional principles, one state can have jurisdiction over a marriage even if that is not the state that granted the marriage. In the context of divorce, this jurisdictional power means the ability to grant a divorce which will be binding in all 50 states (i.e. if you got married in New York and divorced in California, your California divorce will mean you are divorced in New York and everywhere else as well).

That said, California does impose a residency requirement before it will grant a divorce. Either one of the spouses must have lived in California with the intent to remain here permanently for at least six months before filing for a divorce in the state. There is no requirement that the other spouse have lived in California or even have ever stepped foot in the state for a California court to grant a divorce, but, if the other spouse has had little to no contact with the state, that may limit a California court’s ability to compel the other spouse to pay spousal support or hand over property held in another state. Speak with an experienced California family law attorney for further detail on how this will affect your particular situation.

California Law Will Apply to California Divorces

So long as the divorce is properly filed in California, a California court will apply California law on matters such as property division, spousal support, child support, and other issues. This can be significantly different than the law another state might apply to a divorce. For example, some states only award spousal support in cases of financial necessity whereas California courts will frequently award spousal support even where there is not a financial necessity.

Also, California courts treat all property earned and/or acquired during the marriage as community property to be split 50/50 between the parties, whereas other states do not apply this method (note also that California will apply this standard to California divorces even if the property was earned or acquired at a time when the couple was living in a state that does not apply community property standards).

Again, speak with an experienced California family law attorney to determine how California law will apply to your situation.

Experienced Representation in Your California Divorce

At Kearney | Baker, our Pasadena family law attorneys have 60 years of combined experience in reaching positive outcomes on behalf of our clients in divorce matters. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your circumstances.