Marriage and divorce are highly regulated by state law. Since each state has the authority to enact laws governing divorce, there is a substantial amount of variation from one jurisdiction to the next. But what happens when a married couple lives in one jurisdiction and pursues a divorce in another? How do the courts handle such a situation? Which state has the authority to dissolve the marriage? Like most family law matters, it usually depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the case. No matter what the facts are, if you are considering a divorce, you are encouraged to consult with an experienced family law attorney who is fully aware of the local laws and court rules affecting your case.
A recent divorce case invoked the family law statutes of both California and Guam. Here, the couple entered into a marital settlement agreement in California in 2011. A month later, a court in Guam issued a judgment of divorce and a final decree. According to the judgment, the matter had been uncontested, and the court had jurisdiction based on the husband’s residency in Guam for seven days. The wife had consented to the case being heard as a “default matter.” The court further approved the terms of the marital settlement agreement and ordered the parties to adhere to it. Despite these proceedings, the wife filed a petition to dissolve the marriage in 2013 in California. The husband moved to quash the action based on the 2011 final judgment of divorce entered by the court in Guam.