When Katie Holmes, of “Dawson’s Creek” fame, filed for divorce from Tom Cruise, her movie star husband of five years, a media circus ensued. Additionally, legal pundits began analyzing the many potential legal issues surrounding Tom and Kate’s impending divorce proceedings. Although the former couple’s attorneys were able to successfully negotiate a divorce settlement, the unique factual circumstances of their case are worth analyzing under California Family Law.
Before heavily disputed issues such as custody and visitation rights regarding their daughter Suri could be resolved, a judge would have had to determine if New York had jurisdiction over the divorce. While Katie Holmes filed the case in a New York court, it was widely reported that Tom Cruise would have filed a motion to move the case to California.
California and New York have different residency requirements which must be satisfied in order to hear a divorce case. According to New York State Law, one of the following residency requirements must be met: 1)Two years of continuous residency by either spouse 2) One year of continuous residency by either spouse if the grounds of the divorce action occurred in New York, the marriage took place in New York, or if the couple resided in New York at any point during their marriage, 3) Both spouses are currently New York residents and the grounds for the divorce took place in New York. New York Domestic Relations Law § 230.
The residency requirements under California Law are more lenient. In order to get a divorce in California, either spouse must be a resident of the state for six months and a resident in the county the divorce was filed for three months immediately prior to the commencement of the action. California Family Code § 2320.
It has been reported that Holmes would have attempted to meet the residency requirements in New York by offering evidence that she had been renting an apartment in New York for some time prior to the divorce. However, as long as the case is not re-opened, we will likely never know if the case would have been heard in New York or California.