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What State’s Law Applies to My Divorce? Ohio?

What State’s Law Applies to My Divorce? Ohio?
August 28, 2018 Shannon Dawes
Columbus divorce attorney discusses Collaborative Divorces in Ohio.

In many cases, couples will separate before filing for divorce or starting the process of dissolution. By the time they get to the formal process, it is not uncommon for the spouses to be living in different states. If you live near a state line in Ohio, your spouse might live just a short drive away but be in a different state. When the spouses are in different states at the beginning of the divorce proceedings, they might wonder which state’s laws will apply to the process.

In most circumstances, a divorce can be filed in any state where at least one spouse resides. But states can have different determinations as to residency. In order to “reside” in a state, and file for divorce there, you must have lived in the state for a set period of time. In Ohio, residency means living in the state for at least six months. At the end of six months, you will be able to file in the state of Ohio, regardless of where your spouse lives.

If you can file in Ohio, you also have to be sure to file in the correct court. The court has to have what is referred to as “personal jurisdiction” over your spouse. In other words, the court must be able to exercise authority over your spouse so that your divorce and any decisions made during the course of the proceedings will be binding on both of you. In the unusual event you and your spouse did not have any property together, did not have children, and are not pursuing alimony, the court would not need personal jurisdiction. Outside of that very narrow exception, the court overseeing your divorce must always have authority over both spouses.

A court can gain personal jurisdiction over a spouse in one of several ways:

  • If the spouse resides in the state at the time of filing;
  • If the spouse was served with process inside the state;
  • If the spouse has sufficient contacts with the state such that the court could exercise jurisdiction.

After it is clear the court has jurisdiction over both spouses and over the proceedings, the court will determine which state’s laws should apply to the divorce. In most cases, the court will apply the laws of its own state, also called the “forum” state. However, the court might find that the circumstances warrant application of another state’s laws, and it will apply that state’s laws in the interests of maintaining an equitable process.

Divorce proceedings, including where and how to file, can be complicated and confusing. This is one of the reasons you need to work with knowledgeable legal counsel. Dawes Legal, LLC, has the skills and experience to make the process as smooth as possible for you. Contact our Columbus office at (614) 733-9999, and schedule a consultation with Attorney Shannon Dawes today.