I am active duty military deployed overseas and have a question concerning jurisdiction of a divorce case involving multiple states.
We lived in Massachusetts for most of our married lives other than in North Carolina where we were stationed before my deployment.
We agreed that while I was deployed she should move with our children to Texas to be around her family because she was pregnant and about to give birth. However, now she says she is not going to return to my station in North Carolina or our other residence in Massachusetts and wants to file for divorce and keep our kids in Texas.
I have no connections to Texas where my wife and children recently moved, am based out of North Carolina, and primarily reside in Massachusetts so which state has jurisdiction in our divorce?
I am unable to give you legal advice on divorce. I can give general divorce help for men, though, my knowledge is based on Texas divorce laws where I am licensed to practice.
Whether you wife can file for divorce in Texas depends on a requirements such as:
1. if she moved to Texas with the intent to make Texas her home;
2. has been a resident of a Texas county for at least 90 days prior to filing the suit for divorce; and
3. has resided in Texas for at least 6 months prior to filing the divorce suit.
A suit for divorce can be filed in Texas by either your wife or yourself as long as either party has been a domiciliary of Texas for the past six months prior to filing the suit and a resident of a Texas county where the suit is being filed for at least 90 prior to filing the suit being filed.
If your wife moved to Texas with the intent to live there and make it her permanent home then she may satisfy the domiciliary requirement; if your wife has a physical address in a Texas county with a good faith intent to remain and make that county her home then she may satisfy the residency requirement for filing a divorce as well. If these requirements are met then your wife a suit for divorce may be maintained in Texas.
Given the facts you have stated, the original reason for your wife relocating to Texas seems to be with the intent of her giving birth near family and not to remain permanently as you indicate that there was an agreement for you wife to return to North Carolina upon your homecoming.
You may have an argument against her satisfying the domiciliary and residence qualifications for filing a suit for divorced in Texas based on these facts. If your wife files for divorce and you feel that she does not meet the qualification you may consult an attorney in Texas regarding filing a plea to the jurisdiction or plea in abatement depending on which qualifications your attorney may determine are not met.
If it is found that your wife does meet the qualifications to file a divorce suit in Texas the next issue would be whether a Texas court would have personal jurisdiction over you as a non-resident of Texas.
You have indicated that you were married in Massachusetts and North Carolina seems to be your last marital residence. Therefore, the court could not exercise jurisdiction over you based on Texas as your last marital residence, but they may be able to do so if there is any constitutional basis for personal jurisdiction such as minimal contacts with Texas.
You indicate that all your ties are in Massachusetts and you have no connection to Texas at all. If those facts remain true, then your wife relocating to Texas does not alone support Texas courts having jurisdiction over you for purposes of dividing marital property or payment of spousal support, court costs, and attorney fees.
Keep in mind that if it is found that your wife does meet the qualification to file a divorce suit in Texas and it is determined that the court does not have personal jurisdiction over you, the court may still grant a divorce but will not be able to impose any personal obligation on you to pay money or divide assets.
Also, you may want to look into the qualifications for filing a divorce suit in North Carolina or Massachusetts. Since you indicate that you are stationed in North Carolina for military purposes, you may qualify to file a divorce either state.
North Carolina may be considered your last marital residence and Massachusetts may be considered a domiciliary for purposes of filing a divorce. Based on your facts you may have the ability to file in either state as an alternative, assuming that your wife has not already filed for divorce in Texas.
Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than divorce tips for men, so please consult with a divorce lawyer in your jurisdiction.
To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including Texas Divorce Lawyer Ijeoma A. Ugoezi, contact Cordell & Cordell.