This is a really frequent question and it is entirely understandable. I suspect that not knowing the answer to it may have stopped a lot of people from contacting a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer (like me). That is too bad for me as it decreases the number of clients I can represent but it is really unfortunate for those folks because there is no other state where uncontested divorces are so simple and inexpensive. Here’s the answer: A resounding NO!
Not only are you NOT required to file for divorce in the state where the marriage ceremony took place (or where the marriage license was issued), if you tried to do that, you would most likely be informed that you COULD NOT file the divorce action there! Why? Legal actions – and divorce is a legal action – must be brought in the state where either of the two parties resides. You must use the Court in your state of residence. So, if either (or both) of you have gone to sleep and gotten up the next day for the last six months in Pennsylvania, you are a Pennsylvania resident and must file your divorce here. Having become a Pennsylvania resident, you would find that you could no longer use the Court in the state where you were married (or where you got your marriage license) for your divorce. And “residence” is and only is where you actually reside. It does not matter where you were born, where you lived most of your life, what your driver’s license says, where your own or rent property, where you get your mail or where you go to work every day etc. Residence is simply where you live; moreover, you can have only one state of residence.
As a practical matter, whenever someone tells me that she/he was told that she/he must file the divorce where the marriage ceremony took place, I pose this hypothetical question: What if you were married during a vacation trip to Antarctica? Do you really think the law would require you to return to the South Pole to file your divorce? Makes the proposition of having to get divorced where you got married kind of silly, right?
Along those same lines, I often hear clients say that they were told they must file divorce in the county where they live. If you have a simple, uncontested no-fault divorce, Pennsylvania law allows such a divorce to be filed in ANY of our 67 counties. What makes the most sense then is to file in a county with low filing fees, which is what I do for my clients and it saves them $100 to $300. There are quite a few counties with divorce filing fees of $350 to $400! My clients have uncontested cases with the full cooperation of their spouses. Messy, expensive, contested cases should be filed where the parties live because they and their lawyers will be spending time in Court. Traveling to another county to do that makes no sense, of course.
To recap in brief, a divorce must be filed in the state where a party actually lives and cannot be filed where the marriage ceremony took place if no one lives there now.