Dominika (a Polish citizen) and Axel (a Swiss citizen) met in Switzerland, married, and had 2 children. In 2014, they moved to Washington State for Axel’s job. They shipped their belongings, enrolled their children in school in the U.S., involved them in activities, both held jobs, and attempted to purchase a house. They separated in October 2018, and Dominika filed for divorce, custody, etc. in Washington State. In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals of Washington affirmed the trial court’s finding that Dominika was domiciled in Washington, and therefore the court had jurisdiction over the divorce.
“The indispensable elements of domicile are residence in fact coupled with the intent to make a place of residence one’s home.” “Domicile is primarily a question of intent, which may be shown by both the parties’ own testimony and by surrounding circumstances.” “‘[T]he intention to make a home must be an intention to make a home at the moment, not to make a home in the future.'”
Dominika argues that she has no intention or desire to return to Europe. She has her children, a new baby, and a new significant other in Washington State. Axel argues that her intentions are illusory because her immigration status in the USA is tied to his, and once they are divorced, she has no legal ability to remain in the United States. The Court, however, concluded that immigration status or U.S. citizenship is not required to establish domicile – only residency is required. Dominika chose to establish and maintain her domicile in Washington. Once established, domicile continues until changed. An intent to make a home in the future is not relevant to a domicile determination. Therefore, Axel’s arguments about Dominika’s immigration status post-divorce is irrelevant. Only one spouse’s domicile is necessary, and so Dominika’s domicile alone confers jurisdiction to divorce the couple.