LEGAL BRIEFING - When home isn't where heart is

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Dear John,

My husband and I live part of the year in Arizona and part of the year in Walla Walla. We maintain a house in each place.

Some years, we spend more time in Washington and some years we are more in Arizona. We also spend a lot of time travelling and visiting our children in Colorado and Oregon.

But after 46 years of marriage, my husband and I have decided to call it quits and go our separate ways.

He and I have agreed about almost everything when deciding how to split up, but I think we should file the paperwork in Washington and he thinks it should be in Arizona.

How do we decide?

Sincerely,

Single Senior

Dear Senior,

To be granted a divorce in Washington, at least one of the parties needs to be a resident of the state. Residency means physical presence at a dwelling and the intention to make it a home.

Fortunately, there is no set length of time necessary to establish one's residency. You can simply move to a place and "intend" to make it your home.

Demonstrating intent could be difficult if he decides to challenge your claim. It is proven by objective events, not just by your statements, because the courts have found that there are times when statements of intent are self-serving.

The address on your driver's license, vehicle registration, bills, voter registration and the like may be sufficient to show intent. The fact that you maintain a house here and spend time here also shows intent.

However, he will be allowed to provide the court with evidence that contradicts your evidence.

If the two of you have reached agreement on how to split up, I hope you can eventually agree on where to file. The two of you need to figure out where you called "home" during your marriage and file there.

However, there are times when this is not always practical. You should discuss this with an experienced family law attorney.

It would be inappropriate and needlessly expensive to file for divorce in the wrong state and have the case dismissed because the court lacked jurisdiction over the matter.

I hope this helps you decide.

John

John Hartzell is a practicing Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only. Have a question? Ask John at askjohn@wwub.com.

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