How to prove residency in Arizona for a divorce?
December 27, 2018 10:45 AM   Subscribe

If one lives in California but visits family in AZ often and intends to file & live in AZ after divorce, how do you establish & prove residency in AZ before and during divorce proceedings?

(You are not my lawyer and we eventually will go to a lawyer, but trying to get groundwork started)

Asking for a family member. She resides in California with husband and young child. She wants to move to Arizona (Maricopa county) to be closer to family and get away from abusive husband. She wants to bring child with her. She comes to AZ often. Google searching indicates it takes 6 months to establish residency in AZ for divorce with children but it doesn't specify exactly how to prove to courts that she is intending to live here. Does she open a bank account in AZ? Open a PO Box in AZ? Or something else? What do the courts require?

The goal is to file in Arizona but how to prove to courts that she meets the 6 month residency requirement during this transition period?

Complications: husband is controlling and abusive but begrudgingly allows her to visit family in AZ.
posted by dealing away to Law & Government (9 answers total)
She must live in Arizona to be a resident. This means she needs to find a reason to be there continuously for 6 months, recieve mail there, have her driver license there, and register to vote there. While living there she should get a library card and let her bank and phone carrier know she has moved.

Is there a sick family member she and the child could help for a long time?
posted by bilabial at 11:07 AM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

A drivers license, or a utility bill in her name are two ways. She needs to really, truly live in Arizona for 6 months before filing, not just on paper. Her husbands divorce lawyer will see through that and file for improper venue, then the divorce will happen in California. The judge can order the child not be moved out of state. She could really screw herself if she doesn't do this correctly. And correctly is move to Arizona and live there for 6 months and then file. Why doesn't she want to file in California?
posted by Grumpy old geek at 11:10 AM on December 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

Given that she has a child, and assuming the abusive husband is the father of record, she should see an attorney even if it's just for a consultation. Taking a child over state lines when there's no custody arrangement in place could be an issue for her if her soon-to-be ex is vengeful and somewhat organized.
posted by quince at 11:51 AM on December 27, 2018 [6 favorites]

we eventually will go to a lawyer, but trying to get groundwork started

It could be a lot more effective to consult with a lawyer now, especially due to the complications related to abuse and child custody. There are laws such as the UCCJA, UCCJEA, and PKPA that relate to court jurisdiction over minor children, and it can be complicated, but free legal assistance may be available.
posted by Little Dawn at 5:15 PM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Crossing state lines with a child is complicated. An abusive ex could claim she is not allowing visitation and potentially win full custody. The move may not be possible. 100% consult a California lawyer before doing anything.
posted by Kalmya at 5:22 PM on December 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

The destination jurisdiction may have attorneys that can be most helpful, because legal protections exist for people trying to escape domestic violence with children, and there may be no six-month issue at all, depending on which laws apply. The complexity of these cases may make them a priority for legal aid assistance, and consultations in both jurisdictions may be needed to get a better sense of what the options actually are.
posted by Little Dawn at 5:44 PM on December 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

How things go with a cooperative and supportive ex versus how things go with an abusive and unreliable ex are two very different worlds. I agree with those above that she should get good solid legal advice now. This is really ounce of prevention pound of cure territory.

I understand if she's wanting to do things as fast as possible, and if you as someone who cares about her want to support her in using the energy she's feeling to make change now. But in the long run this is better to do right than to do fast, and depending on the situation, having a solid legal framework for shared custody and separation but not rushing the actual divorce could be a good strategy.

She needs a really conscientious lawyer and she needs to be as honest with that lawyer as possible about what she knows and can expect from her ex. Not the time for rose colored glasses or optimism about him. This process does not bring out the best in people, she needs to plan for the worst case scenario and hope that it's unnecessary. The amount of suffering that the other parent of a child can inflict through the courts, if they are willing to spend the time or money on it, can be horrifying.

Little Dawn has a great suggestion for looking for organizations that provide aid to DV victims, because they might be able to provide the kind of long term intensive legal support for her that she'll need, that could be prohibitively expensive otherwise. But for now, even if she could just do say two free phone initial consultations with local lawyers and two with AZ lawyers, that would at least be a start to have her understanding how best to be strategic for starting this out.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:20 AM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Just a little bit about the complexity of an inter-state divorce, even when residency is established. Sounds like it is not that hard to get a divorce but it could leave behind a huge mess concerning child and spousal support. Another vote for getting legal advice before doing anything else.
posted by metahawk at 12:10 PM on December 28, 2018

In my experience as a legal aid attorney, survivors of domestic violence and abuse would often contact a DV hotline first to get emotional support and help with safety planning, and then someone from the DV survivor support organization would contact me because I could screen cases directly into my caseload. For a case like this, I likely would have taken it immediately, and then also reached out to a legal aid organization in the other state to obtain additional assistance for the client.

YMMV, but some of my work was funded by grants that did not have the usual income guidelines, so I do want to encourage anyone who is concerned about their safety and/or the safety of their children to reach out to support services, even if they think they may be over the income guidelines for legal aid assistance.
posted by Little Dawn at 3:47 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

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