With a divorce, “where” and “when” matters

When a couple divorces, they may have a great many things on their mind. Bitterness, frustration or other emotional upset over the ending of their marriage. Financial worries, with concerns over what their economic condition will look like after the divorce. If they have children, the details of their child custody arrangements, if they will receive or pay child support and how to deal with separate households with their kids.

One thing most people probably don’t consider is where the proceedings for their marriage dissolution may take place. For many people in this area, it will naturally occur in a Missouri family court in the St. Louis area. However, for many, the situation could become much more complex.

For instance, if you live in the St. Louis area and you separate from your spouse, one spouse will likely move out of the residence and find somewhere else to live. It may just be across town, but if they move across the river to Illinois, perhaps because it is cheaper, closer to work or because of other reasons, your divorce could suddenly involve questions of jurisdiction.

Divorce is a state law matter, and where you or your spouse file matters, as there is much variation between states on certain aspects of divorce law. The timing of your divorce filing is also very important and could become very expensive if a dispute develops.

There is a difference between filing first and sending notice first. If you file first in Missouri, but your spouse files in Illinois and sends you notice first, you could become tied up in litigation, with courts in both states attempting to decide which court should have jurisdiction.

This is typically a very complex question and the outcome will depend on a host of factors specific to your case. Sorting out these questions can lead to protracted litigation. If you suspect your spouse may file in another state, you should speak with a Missouri attorney immediately and consider filing first to prevent unnecessary litigation and ensure your case is decided by a local court.

Source:, “Breaking up is hard to do: Protecting assets in divorce,” Kelli B. Grant, January 17, 2016

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