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California statutory law governs who is allowed to file a petition (form FL-100) for divorce, legal separation and for an annulment. If a person does not meet the statutory residency requirements to file one of these actions, they must either wait to file or file another type of action that is permissible given the residency of the filing party.
Divorce Residency Requirements
To file for divorce in California, a person must be a resident of California for at least 6 months preceding the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage. (Cal. Family Code 2320). In order to file in Orange County, the person filing will have to have lived in Orange County for at least 3 months preceding the filing.
Legal Separation Residency Requirements
The only requirement for a person to file for legal separation in the State of California is that they must be a resident at the time of filing. In order to file in Orange County, the person filing must be a resident of Orange County.
Can I file for Legal Separation first and then wait to file for Divorce once I meet the Residency Requirements?
Yes. We often handle cases where a person does not yet meet the residency requirements for divorce, so we file a petition for legal separation and “plead in the alternative” for divorce (or dissolution of marriage) so that another separate case does not need to be filed.
California Family Code 2321 allows a party to “amend” their complaint (petition) once the residency requirement is met.
Is there a Residency Requirement for Filing for Dissolution of a Domestic Partnership or Divorce between Same Sex Couples?
The California legislature has carved out an exception for people that have registered a domestic partnership in California so that if they have moved and the state or country that they live in does not recognize domestic partnership unions (so they literally can’t file a case anywhere), those couples are allowed to file in California to dissolve their partnership.
Likewise, marital partners that married in California but live in a state or country that does not recognize same-sex marriages may file in California.
Is there a residency requirement to file for Domestic Violence Restraining Orders?
No. There is no restriction or requirements for a person to file for a DVTRO (domestic violence temporary restraining orders). So long as the person filing the restraining order is present in the State of California when filing the court may accept the filing. Of course, when the hearing is set for the court to determine whether to grant a permanent restraining order based on domestic violence, the filing party’s residence may be important (like if they have moved out of California while the hearing is pending, for example) as well as the place where the domestic violence allegedly took place.
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