A person’s domicile is the place where s/he has his/her true fixed home and principal establishment, and to which, whenever s/he is absent, has the intention of returning. It is not required that the intention be to stay there permanently[i].
A man and wife are presumed to have the same domicile. This presumption flows in favor of both[ii]. The general rule is that the wife must adopt the residence of the husband and that she cannot without just cause maintain a separate domicile[iii].
Upon marriage, the domicile of the wife merges into that of the husband, as a legal sequence of the nuptial contract, and this unity of domicile, called the matrimonial domicile, exists during coverture[iv].
However, there are certain exceptions to the general rule that the wife assumes the domicile of the husband. A wife acquires a different domicile by the husband’s consent manifested by acquiescence, or abandonment, or by such conduct on his part inimical to cohabitation, as would secure to the wife a decree of divorce[v].
When a husband maintains several places of abode to which his wife follows him in the performance of her marital duties, she may choose for herself where she will establish her voting residence[vi].
Similarly, where the husband is guilty of misconduct or ill treatment that would warrant abandonment of the marriage relationship, the wife is released from the duty of remaining in the family domicile and may establish an independent residence[vii].
If there has been an actual rupture of marital relations, a wife may acquire a separate domicile of her own even though she was the party at fault[viii]. She may do so if for any reason she is living apart from her husband even though her relation with him is wholly amicable.
Thus, a wife can acquire a separate domicile, when she is offended by her husband as to entitle her to a decree of divorce or judicial separation from him for and on account of such conduct.
For purposes of federal diversity jurisdiction, a married woman can have a legal domicile separate from that of her husband[ix]. In Napletana v. Hillsdale College, 385 F.2d 871 (6th Cir. Mich. 1967), the court held that if a wife lives apart from her husband without being guilty of desertion according to the law of the state which was their domicile at the time of separation, she can have a separate domicile.
Thus, the domicile of the husband is, for many purposes (except few), that of the wife and that his domicile fixes her domicile for purposes connected with the marriage relation and the duties of husband and wife.
[i] Chico v. P.R. Elec. Power Auth., 312 F. Supp. 2d 153 (D.P.R. 2004)
[ii] McClendon v. Bel, 797 So. 2d 700 (La.App. 1 Cir. Sept. 7, 2000)
[iii] Carlson v. Carlson, 75 Ariz. 308 (Ariz. 1953)
[iv] Rinaldi v. Rinaldi, 94 N.J. Eq. 14 (Ch. 1922)
[vi] Snyder v. Callahan, 3 N.J. Misc. 269 (Cty. Ct. 1925)
[vii] Carlson v. Carlson, 75 Ariz. 308 (Ariz. 1953)
[viii] Spindel v. Spindel, 283 F. Supp. 797 (E.D.N.Y. 1968)
[ix] Napletana v. Hillsdale College, 385 F.2d 871 (6th Cir. Mich. 1967)