Consider Jurisdiction When Filing for Divorce in California

Wed 1st March, 2023 Family Law

When the other shoe drops and you realize that you and your partner are going to divorce, you may quickly realize that you will need to learn about many things you may not have known even existed.  When faced with a divorce, many questions swirl around in people’s minds, along with potential shock and disbelief come questions like ” Is this real? What is going to happen to my house? What about the kids?” It can be hard for anyone facing the prospect of divorce to know where to begin, especially when the process is notorious for complications. However, an experienced divorce attorney can guide you through the entire process and ensure everything is as easy as possible.

The first step many people take in pursuing a divorce is the actual filing of the divorce with the court. With that in mind, this article is aimed to inform readers of an aspect of divorce they may not have thought about: court jurisdiction.


If your spouse tells you they are leaving you, or you decide that is a process that you yourself want to pursue, you need to understand some basics about jurisdiction.

Not just any court can hear and process a court case. A court that is processing a case must have the power to oversee that case. That power is called “jurisdiction.” You must determine which court will hold jurisdiction over your case, and that is where the case needs to be filed. For instance, in a criminal case, the court that holds jurisdiction might be the one that rules over the area where the crime was committed.

This means that, for example, even if a woman is from Massachusetts, if she committed a robbery in Los Angeles, California, the case will likely be under a Los Angeles California court’s jurisdiction.

Similarly, when a divorce action takes place, the petitioner needs to consider which court they should file with. Family Law can be complicated, and it may be technically possible for more than one court to claim jurisdiction over your case. If this is the case, you should discuss with your attorney any potential benefits to filing your case in one location vs. another.

California Court Jurisdiction in Divorce

Some petitioners may be surprised to learn that they do NOT qualify to file for divorce in a California court. In order to be eligible to receive a California divorce, you must meet the state residency requirement. The California rules state that in order to qualify for a divorce process in California, either the petitioner (filer) or the spouse must have lived in the state of California for at least six months prior to filing. In addition, one of the partners must have lived in the specific county in which the petition is filed for at least three months before the filing.

Domestic Partnerships

The requirements for a dissolution of a domestic partnership mirror the process for a divorce in almost every way. However, the residency requirement is actually one place where different requirements are found.

If you or your partner seek to dissolve a domestic partnership, California law does not require either partner to live in California. This means that a California court may agree to hear your case even if neither of the partners involved currently lives in California. So long as your domestic partnership was registered with California to begin with, you should have no jurisdictional issues due to non-residency in the state.


Contact an experienced divorce attorney at the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler today to learn how we can put our experience to work for you.