When circumstances force you to file for divorce in another county

Currently, New York State is in the midst of a lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19. Among many other things, divorce filings are not allowed in Supreme Court anywhere in the state — for the moment.

But by the time you read this, courts could be opening up again. New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has announced that courts in 30 upstate counties have met safety requirements laid out by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and could reopen as soon as May 18.

Can you file for divorce in a county you don’t live in?

That is good news for residents of those counties who are ready to get divorced. But it could also help people in Westchester County and surrounding areas, even though the courts here are still mostly closed for regular business.

Usually, when filing for divorce in New York, you must file in a county:

  • Where either you or your spouse resides, or both
  • Where one or both of you are regularly employed, or
  • Where one or both of you owns a place of business

These are factors that a court’s jurisdiction over your divorce case. Otherwise, the spouses must agree to file in an outside county. If you both agree your marriage is over, this may be reasonably easy.

Going all the way across the state to file for divorce may not seem practical. But electronic filing may make things more convenient. And you can request a change of venue to your home county once the Supreme Court there is reopened fully.

Before filing, talk to a divorce lawyer

Filing now in an outside county could help you get the ball rolling on divorce now, but each county has its own riling rules, so you need to be careful. Talk it over with your divorce attorney to find out if this is a good strategy in your situation.