For those who follow celebrity news and gossip, there’s an interesting lesson to be learned from the recent Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorce — a lesson that might actually have real-life applications for ordinary folks all across the country. What am I talking about here? Divorce jurisdictions and the effect residency status can have on the resulting settlements, of course!
In the above-mentioned instance, Katie Holmes filed her divorce petition in the state of New York instead of in California. This caused a huge stir (on top of the buzz generated by their unexpected split) because where divorce is filed for sometimes has a huge impact on the terms surrounding child custody, child support and alimony.
Even though the family resided largely in California, Holmes filed for divorce in New York because of the differences between the two states’ custody regulations. New York family courts are much more likely to grant sole custody in cases where parents have a hostile relationship, and Holmes shocked many when she petitioned for divorce by requesting sole legal custody of six-year-old Suri. The terms of their settlement are not known — with the exception that Cruise has meaningful time with Suri — but California courts prefer to grant joint custody even when parents are constantly at odds with one another.
In most cases, as long as one spouse resides in the state, a divorce can be legally granted. The issues crop up when it comes to one state enforcing property or custody agreements on the other party when they don’t even live or have anything to do with the state in question.
So yes, a woman who has been living in Arizona can file to dissolve her marriage with a Tucson divorce lawyer and be granted the divorce even if her husband is living in their marital home in Georgia. She may prefer to do this because it gives her an advantage and makes it more difficult for him to contest the terms of her paperwork. However, he can petition to have the divorce moved to Georgia if doing so is more likely to produce a favorable outcome for him in the split. How things shake out all depend on state laws.
While no two divorces are ever exactly the same, a divorce lawyer should be able to offer specific recommendations on how to handle jurisdiction in an upcoming dissolution of marriage.