Can I E-File My Divorce If My Spouse And I Live In Different States?

Posted on: 1 February 2016

If you've separated from your spouse and now live in a different state, you may be ready to take the next step and finalize a divorce. You may want to skip the hassle of court and file online, but are unsure if you still qualify since you no longer live in the same jurisdiction. Here are some considerations about whether or not you qualify for e-filing.

You Must Establish Residency

If you just barely moved to your new home, you will have to wait and establish residency before you can file online. According to Legal Match, this period is usually six months to one year. However, some states may only require a couple of months. Besides the ability to file online, residency also allows you to proceed with a "no-fault" divorce, or one where the dissolution of marriage comes down to incompatibility or irreconcilable differences (otherwise, you'd need to appear in court to provide evidence).

Assuming you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse both meet your residency requirements, your two different states are eligible to have jurisdiction over one marriage. You do not have to go back to the state that issued your marriage license. However, the state where a divorce petition is first filed is the state that will take jurisdiction over the proceedings and finalize the divorce. Even if the court may lack jurisdiction over your spouse, they can have jurisdiction over the marriage contract.

So make sure that you both agree on where to file. If you both file in your respective states, then, unfortunately, you may have to make travel arrangements and attend court. It's important that you only file one petition if you want to complete the divorce smoothly online.

You Have to Be on Amicable Terms

You can only file online if you and your spouse are seeking an uncontested divorce, meaning that you've already worked out logistics such as alimony, child support/custody, division of assets, etc. with your spouse.

You Need to Know Which State is Ideal for Your Situation

While it may not matter to you or your spouse which state you file in, state laws can vary in how they treat the previously mentioned issues. So if you are looking for more affordable filing fees, favorable laws over custody, and so on, you and your spouse should compare each state's policies before filing. For instance, according to Bloomberg Business, one of the best states to get divorced in is Wyoming because it has a small filing fee of $70 and the processing time is only 80 days (compared to other states which can take more than a year); plus, Wyoming also has a shorter residency requirement of 60 days.

If getting the ball rolling is important to you, and you don't want lengthy processing times or large fees, Forbes says you should avoid filing in states like New York, California or Nebraska, among others. Not only do some of these states have higher residency times, some require a "cooling-off" period, which is an interval in which you would ideally settle your differences before making a final decision. But if you both are ready for divorce, the cooling-off period just wastes your time.

You Can Skip Court, But You May Still Need An Attorney's Help

E-filing can be great because some sites allow you to fill out the forms on your own. However, some courts require that you fill out online petitions with the help of an attorney (some sites bar regular users and only allow attorneys to fill out the forms). While you may be bummed out that you may not be able to do the e-filing yourself, keep in mind that a lawyer can help you fill out the forms correctly so that you get your fair share of assets and so you don't have to refile if you filled something out incorrectly. And keep in mind that you will still get to save money since you won't have to wait around for court dates or pay court fees.