Determining the Proper County to Adjudicate Your Florida Divorce Case

A husband from the Gainesville area succeeded in appealing a divorce judgment entered by a trial court in Hillsborough County. The 2d District Court of Appeal ruled that the only criterion for determining venue that applied to the couple’s case was the residence of the husband. Since he undisputedly lived in Alachua County, that meant that Alachua County, not Hillsborough County, was the proper venue for the case.

In early 2013, M.V. (wife) desired to end her marriage to J.V. (husband). She filed for divorce in Tampa. The husband lived near Gainesville. He asked the trial court in Tampa to transfer the case to Gainesville, but the court refused and entered an order dissolving the marriage. The husband appealed and won, which nullified the divorce judgment that the court in Tampa had entered. The 2d DCA threw out the divorce on the basis that the trial court in Hillsborough County should have granted the husband’s request to move the case to Alachua County.

Under Florida law, there are several ways to determine where the proper place to hear a case, in terms of venue, is located. Florida Statutes Section 47.011 says that a case can only be adjudicated “where the defendant resides, where the cause of action accrued, or where the property in litigation is located.” The Supreme Court has clarified that the location-of-property criterion doesn’t apply in divorce cases.

In terms of a divorce case, the proper venue for hearing the matter generally is where a married couple last “lived with a common intent to remain married.” In the this case, that happened while they were living in South Dakota in 2011-12. Thus, this criterion could not form the basis for moving the case. Since the wife’s cause of action (divorce) did not arise in Florida, the court should have relied upon the residence of the defendant to establish venue. Since the husband was the defendant in this case, and he undisputedly lived in Alachua County, that county was the proper venue to litigate this divorce action.

The court also took time to highlight an important point:  that maximizing the strength of one’s position from the standpoint of legal strategy may not necessarily match what’s in the best interests of one’s family. In the this case, they went through the entire divorce process in Tampa, followed by the appeal process, and now they must start over from “Square One” in Gainesville, when the husband could have appealed immediately upon the trial court’s denial of his venue charge request. This choice, the court noted, while potentially beneficial in terms of legal strategy, came at “great costs, both personal and financial,” given that the couple had three minor children, one of whom was autistic.

Family law cases involve weighing a lot of factors. Some of those considerations are legal ones, and sometimes others are outside the realm of legal analysis. One must consider the law, the rules of court procedure, and the needs of your family. For thoughtful advice and assistance in understanding the law and how its requirements and options may affect your family in a family court case, speak to the South Florida divorce attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys are here to provide both determined advocacy and helpful options for the benefit of your case and the needs of your family.

Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

When You Can Set Aside a Marital Settlement Agreement in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 12, 2015

When the Florida Appellate Courts Won’t Hear Your Family Law Case, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 5, 2015

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