Residency Requirements of Divorce in Florida.
If you are considering a divorce in the state of Florida, there are a few issues that you must consider. First and foremost, for Florida to grant a divorce, the state must have the jurisdiction to do so. That may sound strange to many as jurisdiction is hardly ever the first aspect of a divorce proceeding that people consider. However, it is crucial to begin a divorce proceeding in a state that has jurisdiction over the parties to ensure that the divorce is recognized across all other states.
The State of Florida has a compelling interest in ensuring that divorce decrees can withstand any challenge from another state. Thus, the state has enacted a six-month residence requirement. This provides that any party seeking a divorce must reside within any part of the state for a minimum of six months.
What does Residency Mean?
In Florida, the term “residence” can be meant interchangeably as both residence and domicile. While this may seem like a minor distinction, legally it holds great weight as legal residence (or domicile) and actual residence are quite different. For instance, actual residence is often meant as having a temporary character of where you are living at a particular point in time. From a practical standpoint, this is important because a family may be in Florida for six months for work-related reasons, such as being stationed on a naval base. However, actual residence is not enough to satisfy the six month requirement to file for divorce. Legal residency (or domicile) must be satisfied for the six month requirement. Legal residency (or domicile) requires that the person would have the intent of making Florida their permanent home, as well as physically living in the state. Some evidence of legal residence (or domicile) is a driver’s license or ID card or voter’s registration card issued by the state where you live.
Unfortunately, this is not always the easiest concept to understand as it does come with a few exceptions. The easiest rule of thumb is to make sure that at least one of the people being divorced has lived in Florida for at least six months with the provable intent of making this your home.
Why is Residency Important?
This is important in large part due to what is called the “Divisible Divorce Concept” Under this concept, if the Court has jurisdiction over a marriage, then the court can dissolve the marital relationship. However, that same Court may not be able to adjudicate property disputes, equitable distributions, or issues dealing with support, unless the court has personal jurisdiction over both individual parties. Also a court may have jurisdiction to dissolve the marriage, but may not have jurisdiction over children issues if the children have lived in another state for 6 months or more per the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
Finally, it should be noted that the party choosing to challenge the validity of a state having jurisdiction over a divorce has the burden of proving that the parties in the divorce proceeding had not met the residency requirement. This challenge would be determined on facts and evidence at a hearing before the Court to determine if the residency requirement is satisfied.