If you’re planning to divorce and you live in New York but your spouse has moved out of state, you may have questions about how to go about obtaining a divorce. You may wonder if you need to start the divorce in New York or if the spouse who lives out of state has to file. These are questions many couples who have separated and are living apart in different states have about how to begin the process of divorcing. New York divorce if your spouse lives in another state

If you live in New York and want to file for divorce but your legal spouse has moved to another state, getting a divorce requires that you follow New York State laws and requirements. If you are not eligible to file in New York, your spouse can file in their state. Our divorce lawyers explain.

Requirements for Divorce in New York State

If you live in New York, there are a few requirements if you want to file for a divorce but your spouse lives elsewhere. Here are two important requirements:

Make Sure You File First

If you are a New York resident, you must meet New York requirements and be the first to file in order for New York to have jurisdiction (legal authority) to handle your divorce. However, this may not be optimal if you have minor children and they are living with the other spouse in another state where they have all established residency and the children are enrolled in school. It’s possible that the other state may be the best jurisdiction for the divorce. If this is the case, you should research the other state’s requirements for child custody, child support, and spousal support (alimony).

Meet New York Requirements

If your spouse lives in another state and files first, the other state will have jurisdiction. If you are looking to prevent the spouse in another state from having jurisdiction and you live in New York and want to file here, you have to meet the following requirements:

Residency Requirements

New York residency requirement can be fulfilled if either you or your spouse has lived in New York State for at least two years before filing for divorce. In certain cases, the residency time can be reduced to one year, but only if you meet specific guidelines:

  • One of you has lived continuously in New York State for a year before the filing, and you were either married in New York or lived in New York as a married couple
  • If you are both residents of the state of New York at the time of filing and the grounds for the divorce happened in New York


In New York, you must have legal grounds (reason) to divorce. The following are the seven reasons allowed by New York law:

  • A breakdown in the relationship of at least six months that cannot be repaired (“no-fault” divorce)
  • Cruel and/or inhuman treatment (within the last five years)
  • Abandonment (leaving for one or more years, or “constructive” abandonment where one spouse refuses to have sexual relations with the other spouse)
  • Imprisonment for three or more years
  • Adultery (cheating—proof must be provided)
  • Divorce following a period of one year of separation
  • Divorce after “judgment of separation” (or “conversion”), which is rare, but it involves the New York State Supreme Court requiring one year of separation, followed by divorce

How a Family Lawyer Can Help

While a divorce issued in any state is valid across the country, with laws and procedures differing in every state, it may be difficult to assess whether or not filing for divorce in New York is best. Every divorce brings a different set of complications. Our experienced New York divorce and family law attorney understands New York law and can work with you on timing, out-of-state considerations, and the requirements for jurisdiction over your divorce. They have experience working with and coming to fair decisions about child custody, support, real estate, and shared assets. While divorce is never easy, a lawyer who will represent your best interests and fight for what’s fair can make the process easier.