Residency Requirements Must be Met for Divorce

Getting divorced is no laughing matter and it’s not a simple one, either. Divorce comes with lots of rules that you have to follow in order to get divorced properly. Sometimes if your spouse does not file an answer, you may be granted a default judgment of divorce.

Recently, in Baldwin County, inWeith v. Weith, the Court of Civil Appeals addressed how to treat a divorce judgment where the wife was not a resident of Alabama for the required period of time before she filed for divorce. In 2015, the wife filed for divorce, alleging that she was a resident of Baldwin County, Alabama and that the husband is a resident of Missouri. The husband admitted that jurisdiction was proper.

The wife testified that the parties met in 1999 and moved into a house in Missouri in 2000. They married in 2012 and continued living in Missouri. In 2014, the parties bought a house in Lillian, Alabama, titled in both parties’ names. The wife testified that it was her plan to spend half her time at the Lillian house and half in Missouri.

In April, 2015, the husband told the wife he was pursuing a divorce. The wife then filed for divorce in Alabama. She testified that she had been a resident of Alabama for six months before filing for divorce. However, at trial, the husband’s lawyer objected to the court’s jurisdiction because the wife did not intend to reside in Alabama until immediately before she filed the complaint. The trial court overruled and entered a divorce judgment. The husband appealed.

Under Alabama law, when a defendant in a divorce action is a nonresident, the other party must be a bona fide resident of Alabama for six months prior to filing the divorce complaint. If these requirements are not met, a court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case. Parties also may not simply agree to jurisdiction. According to the Court, the wife obtaining an Alabama driver’s license six month before filing the action was not enough.

Because she indicated that she intended to return to Missouri until she filed for divorce, she was still domiciled in Missouri and thus, not a bona fide resident of Alabama. Without proper jurisdiction over this case, any judgment is void and thus, the Court of Civil Appeals could not hear an appeal. The Court dismissed the appeal.

The main takeaway here is that when filing for divorce and the person you’re divorcing lives in another state, you must be a bona fide resident of Alabama for at least six months before you can file. As demonstrated in this case, that means more than just a driver’s license. This means you must actually demonstrate your intent to make Alabama your primary place of residence for those six months before filing the complaint in order for the court to hear the action.

if you are considering divorce, contact Ingram Law LLC if you need a family lawyer. contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 236-3997 for help with your case.

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