Divorce Long Distance: How Does it Work?

lawyers shaking hands

It is possible to go through the divorce process if you are in one state and your spouse is in another; the law obviously doesn’t require that you stay married just because you live in different states. However, each state has different laws regarding divorce, and those laws may impact where you choose to file. By way of example, California has community property statutes, but Colorado does not.

I recently worked with a client who lived here in Boulder, but his wife owned a beach house in Miami, where she was living full-time. They wanted to get divorced and chose to file here in Colorado. I helped them file the paperwork, and she signed what’s called an acceptance of service. No one challenged the ability of the Colorado Courts to grant the divorce, and it went through without any issues.

That’s a dream scenario for some people. If she had challenged the divorce or tried to file for divorce in Florida to gain some perceived advantage, it would have caused everything to become more complicated, last longer, and obviously become more expensive.

The Process of “Remote” Divorce

In all divorces, we have what’s called an “initial status conference,” or ISC, to review the details of the case. For the particular case I mentioned above, everyone appeared remotely, which is often the situation with ISCs these days. We worked through the issues that did arise and agreed to a separation agreement, both parties executed it, and that was the end.

If the case had gone to trial, it’s more likely that both parties would have needed to show up in person, and the Florida-based spouse would have had to fly to Colorado. Fortunately for both of them, they were very clear on what they wanted and agreed to virtually everything, which streamlined the process and made it easier. The wife never even had to leave her beach home in Florida to get divorced.

That said, one size never fits all when it comes to getting a divorce.

In Which State Should We Get Divorced?

Sometimes there are conflicts over which state is the one in which to get divorced. This can arise if one spouse is going to college in a different state, for instance. I’ve also had cases where two parties filed for divorce in different states at the same time. In the case I’m thinking of, the wife filed here in Colorado while the husband filed in Alabama (possibly thinking that Alabama laws would somehow give him an advantage).

When this happens, the Courts initially determine if they both have jurisdiction over both parties. If they do, the Judges have a procedure whereby they converse and decide in which state it makes the most sense to have the divorce. In my experience, the Courts recognize that it doesn’t make sense to have two different divorces with two different Courts issuing two sets of orders.

In this situation, the wife had stayed in Colorado with their three kids, while the husband had moved to Alabama on his own. The judges ultimately agreed that it made the most sense for the divorce to be held in Colorado, where the evidence concerning what was in the children’s best interest would be far more easily available than if the proceedings were held in Alabama (where the kids had no family, no history of attending school, etc.)

The bottom line is this: If you meet the requirements necessary to establish jurisdiction, then a Court can handle a divorce case even when one of the parties is out of state as long as the Court has jurisdiction over both parties. If the parties are in agreement, they will simply file in the agreed-upon state, and the issue of whether the Court has jurisdiction will not come up.

Work with an Attorney for Your Long-Distance Divorce Case

Working with an experienced divorce attorney is even more important when you’re getting divorced remotely. Call our office today at 303-449-1873 to schedule a complimentary consultation and find out if Barre Sakol is the right representative for your case.

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