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Nevada Supreme Court, En Banc, on Domicile, Residence and Divorce: Senjab v. Alhulaibi (F-1/2 visas)

November 02, 2021 (2 min read)

Senjab v. Alhulaibi

"NRS 125.020(2) provides in part that "no court has jurisdiction to grant a divorce unless either the plaintiff or defendant has been resident of the State for a period of not less than 6 weeks preceding the commencement of the action." Although residence and domicile are distinct concepts elsewhere in the law, for divorce jurisdiction, we have long considered residence "synonymous with domicile." Vaile v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 118 Nev. 262, 269-70, 44 P.3d 506, 511 (2002) (quoting Aldabe v. Aldabe, 84 Nev. 392, 396, 441 P.2d 691, 694 (1968)). In this appeal, we revisit that rule and conclude that divorce jurisdiction requires mere residence. ... Citing our long-standing rule that residence is synonymous with domicile under NRS 125.020, [the lower court] found that both parties had been physically present in Nevada for at least six weeks before Senjab filed her complaint but neither party had established domicile here. Citing a recent Ninth Circuit decision, it concluded that Alhulaibi's F-1 visa and Senjab's F-2 visa precluded them from establishing domicile as a matter of law, so it dismissed Senjab's complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Senjab now appeals, inviting us to reconsider our rule that residence and domicile are synonymous under NRS 125.020. She argues that "reside[nce]" under NRS 125.020 plainly means mere residence-not domicile. We agree, so we reverse and remand to the district court. ... Under NRS 125.020, "residen[ce)" means mere residence-not domicile-and NRS 10.155 defines residence as "physical[] presen[ce)." Because the district court found that Senjab had been physically present in Nevada for at least six weeks before she filed her divorce complaint, we conclude that it had subject-matter jurisdiction under NRS 125.020. Accordingly, we reverse and remand to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

[LESLYE E. ORLOFF, Director, National Immigrant Women's Advocacy Project (NIWAP) writes: "We are writing to share with you a unanimous ruling from the Nevada Supreme Court we received in this case in which NIWAP filed an amicus brief confirming that for purposes of jurisdiction in divorce cases residence can be established without regard to the immigration status of the party seeking divorce. This is a case in which an abusive spouse argued successfully to the trial court below that a visa holder spouse (in this case a student visa holder) could not file for divorce (custody and child support) in Nevada because her visa is only temporary, and she could never obtain a divorce in NV despite the state being the victim and her abusive spouse's state of residence. The victim otherwise met the residency requirements. This could have had broad implications for all visa holders in the U.S. if the trial court's ruling was not overturned. Instead, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that residence in the state is all that is needed for divorce jurisdiction. This ruling ensures that courts retain the ability to grant divorces to all persons who meet the state residency requirements without regard to any party's immigration status. K &L Gates represented NIWAP in the amicus brief."]