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What happens when one spouse files for divorce in a state, and a week later the other spouse files for divorce in another state?

Dallas, TX |

I filed for divorce in the state of Texas where I live. A week later my wife filed for absolute divorce in Maryland where she lives (she was probably unaware that I filed the divorce). She was served with divorce papers 2 days after she actually filed the divorce.

What happens in this case? Does one of us have to withdraw his/her case? Who would that be if neither wants to withdraw?

There are no children, property, or anything involved in the divorce and it's very simple. Both of us want divorce but we don't have contact with each other.

Attorney Answers 3

  1. Best answer

    You filed first. If you have NOT been served with papers from the MD divorce, then it is not really pending against you. If you have been served, then you need to file a motion to abate the proceedings in MD by showing the court that a similar dispute between the same parties is being decided in another jurisdiction. (You will need an MD attorney to do this for you.)

    The court in MD will abate its proceedings until the TX divorce is finalized or dismissed. Once the TX case concludes, the MD case will be able to continue. If the TX case concluded with the court granting a divorce in TX, then the subject matter of the MD case will be moot and the case in MD will be dismissed.

  2. Probably, the fact that you filed first will mean that the case will stay in Texas, assuming that you meet the requirements that you lived in Texas for at least six months prior to filing, and in the county where you filed for at least 90 days. The only likely exception to that would be if something called the "forum non conveniens" doctrine applied. If your wife also meets those requirements to file in Maryland AND there's some good reason why it would just make a lot more sense to have the divorce heard by a Maryland court -- if you all own real property or a family business together in Maryland and there's nothing like that in Texas, or perhaps if custody's contested and you have children who have been residing with her there, with you having just left and moved to Texas by yourself recently.

    Both of those situations would just make it a whole lot easier for the Maryland court to deal with the necessary issues, so they might end up keeping the case under those circumstances. Actually, come to think of it, that might also end up happening if the the two of your lived in Maryland the bulk of the time you were married, because it might be perceived as unjust to throw a community property characterization on all of the marital assets if that wasn't the way things were throughout most of your marriage because you mostly lived in a non-community property state.

    Also, if one of you wants to agree for whatever reason to just nonsuit your case and let the other spouse's case continue in the other state, probably the court that's losing the case would not fight you on that (usually they're happy to get rid of a case any way they can!).

  3. Your case will carry forward, but to clean things up, you should ask that the court in MD dismiss their case since you filed first and served her. The MD court will almost certainly grant the motion.

    Since there is no property and no children, seems pretty clear that the divorce can be finalized in either state (but Texas is proper for the reasons listed). She probably won't answer the TX case, so just default her after 60 days. If she answers, set it for trial and ask her to sign an agreed decree of divorce to avoid having to fly down to TX. She either signs it or you have a trial. If she does or doesn't show up, end result is a divorce. Good luck.

    This answer is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice nor forming the attorney client relationship. This attorney is licensed in Texas.

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