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Residency requirements in divorce actions: The Katie Holmes/Tom Cruise Divorce

In every state, there are statutes with residency requirements governing who is able to obtain a divorce in that state. These statutes ensure that a person has a significant connection to thestate and prevent people from "jurisdiction shopping," or filing a divorce action in a state in which he or she does not live just to take advantage of laws that are most beneficial to theirposition. In Georgia, a person must be a "bona fide resident of this state for six months" before a court is able to grant that person a divorce. " OCGA ยง19-5-2. In addition, a person who is not a resident of Georgia "may file a petition for divorce, in the county ofresidence of the respondent, against any person who has been a resident of this state and of the county in which the action is brought for a period of six months prior to the filing of thepetition." Id.

Residency requirements in divorce cases have recently been in the news due to the Katie Holmes/Tom Cruise divorce action. According to an article on, Holmes filed her Petition for Divorce in New York, where sherecently spent most of her time, despite the fact that she and Cruise had a residence in California as well. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Divorce: Everything We Know-So Far! by Peter Gicas, July 2,2012, According to the article, it is speculated that Holmes filed in New York because she is seeking sole custody of the couple's daughter, and the New York courts are morelikely to grant her wish as opposed to California, which favors joint custody arrangements. According to another article on, there is a two-year residency requirement to file for divorce in New York, "meaning Holmeshas to prove that she has physically been in the state for an adequate amount of time and intends to stay there after her split from Cruise is finalized." Has Katie Holmes Spent Enough Time in New York to Get a Divorce There? by Natalie Finn and Claudia Rosenbaum, July 6, 2012,

As in Georgia, proving residency is somewhat subjective and the court will look at all aspects of a person's life, including whether they rent or own, where the children attend school, where theypay taxes, where their car is registered, and where their bills are sent. If Cruise wants the divorce in California, where he has a better chance of obtaining joint custody, he would have to filehis own divorce action in California and challenge Holmes' residency in New York. It will then be up to a judge to decide the appropriate jurisdiction for the divorce proceedings.


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