Where you file your divorce matters

Most people in St. Louis won’t find they have much in common with the divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Few people have a marital estate measured in the hundreds of millions, but there are some lessons to be learned from their filing. If you have decided to file a divorce, jurisdiction is important. Jurisdiction is the term that defines the types of cases and the geographical area where a court may hear cases.

If you and your spouse are residents of Missouri, you need to file your divorce in this state. Jolie and Pitt have homes in multiple states and if Jolie met the residency requirements in more than one, she would have had a choice when choosing a state to file a divorce. She picked California, perhaps because it is a community property state.

In a community property state, any assets acquired during the term of the marriage are likely to be divided equally between the couple. In this case, there is also likely to be prenuptial agreements. The have been together since 2004 but only married in 2014, which is likely to affect the community property.  Missouri is not a community property state, instead, it uses equitable principles to divide assets from the marriage.

However, if you do maintain two residences, say one in St. Louis and a second, winter home in Florida or in Texas on the Gulf, and your spouse met those states residency requirements, he or she could file a divorce there and Texas is a community property state.

For couples with children, there is the added complexity of the custody determination. Missouri has enacted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which controls where jurisdiction lies for a child custody determination. Under this law, courts in the child’s “home state” will decide. The home state is the state where the child and one parent resided for six months, or where the child was born if less than six months old.

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