In order to make an award of alimony or divide property in the context of a divorce case, the court must have personal jurisdiction over the defendant. When the defendant lives out-of-state, two questions must be answered in the affirmative in order to assert personal jurisdiction over him or her: (1) is the assertion of jurisdiction authorized by statute, and (2) if authorized, is the exercise of jurisdiction under state law consistent with basic due process requirements as mandated by the U.S. Constitution?
In order to meet basic due process requirements, the long-arm statute for personal jurisdiction, Massachusetts General Laws c. 223A, § 3, must be satisfied. M.G.L. c. 223A, § 3 states:
A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person, who acts directly or by an agent, as to a cause of action in law or equity arising from the person’s (a) transacting any business in this commonwealth; (b) contracting to supply services or things in this commonwealth; (c) causing tortious injury by an act or omission in this commonwealth; (d) causing tortious injury in this commonwealth by an act or omission outside this commonwealth if he regularly does or solicits business or engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered, in this commonwealth; (e) having an interest in, using or possessing real property in this commonwealth; (f) contracting to insure any person, property or risk located within this commonwealth at the time of contracting; (g) maintaining a domicile in this commonwealth while a party to a personal or marital relationship out of which arises a claim for divorce, alimony, property settlement, parentage of a child, child support or child custody; or the commission of any act giving rise to such a claim; or (h) having been subject to the exercise of personal jurisdiction of a court of the commonwealth which has resulted in an order of alimony, custody, child support or property settlement, notwithstanding the subsequent departure of one of the original parties from the commonwealth, if the action involves modification of such order or orders and the moving party resides in the commonwealth, or if the action involves enforcement of such order notwithstanding the domicile of the moving party.
Thus, if any one of the foregoing criteria is satisfied and jurisdiction is authorized by statute, the court can make an award of alimony or property division against an out-of-state defendant.