Jurisdiction, Venue, and Where You Have to File Your Divorce Petition in Florida

There are many different decisions that have to be made in connection with your divorce, and they are all important to achieving your overall goals, although some may be more important than others. For example, if you file your divorce in the wrong county, then that may lead to your case getting dismissed or transferred to a different county, all of which can slow down you getting you to where you want to be – which is with a signed divorce judgment in find.

To make sure than you are doing everything possible, in terms of factual evidence, legal issues and procedural rules compliance, to give yourself the most complete and most efficient success possible, be sure you have an experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney on your side, who can help you avoid getting trapped by the sort of procedural pitfalls that can ensnare even the most intrepid of self-represented spouses.

N.D. was a woman placed in a particularly precarious divorce scenario. She married her husband, J.P.D., in 2015 and, for three years, they lived in Orange County. In late 2018, they moved to Volusia County. Three months after that move, the wife again was relocating, this time to Miami-Dade County. This last move, though, was to escape the domestic violence her husband was inflicting on her.

Obviously, someone in this wife’s position might reasonably want a divorce and not have to go back to her husband’s hometown to get it. So, a few weeks after her move to Miami, N.D. began pursuing a divorce here. Around that same time, the husband filed his own divorce petition in Volusia County.

The key to determining where the divorce litigation should proceed came down to a procedural concept called “venue.” Venue is one of two legal concepts that can impact whether a court in a particular location will or won’t hear a case. There’s also jurisdiction. Jurisdiction refers to whether or not a court has power, under the law, to make binding rulings on the parties within a case. For example, say you and your spouse were married and lived together for 10 years in Fort Lauderdale until you separated. After your separation, if your spouse filed for divorce in Los Angeles, that case would be dismissed because the California court in Los Angeles County would lack jurisdiction over you and over the subject matter of your divorce.

If, instead, your spouse filed in West Palm Beach, that case would also be dismissed. Although the court in Palm Beach County would have jurisdiction, it not be the correct venue under the Florida Statutes – Broward County would. That’s because Florida law says that the correct county, in terms of venue, is the county where the couple last lived as spouses, “indefinitely if not permanently.”

Alleged domestic violence did not alter where the divorce had to be heard

Under the facts of N.D.’s case, Volusia County was the one and only county where venue was proper under the rules. It is important to note that, according to Florida law, the fact that you left a place and relocated far away in order to escape your spouse’s domestic violence “does not matter for application of the venue statute” and where you have to litigate your divorce.

This type of scenario may not allow you to litigate in your preferred county, but you still have tools you can use, which why you should retain a skilled attorney. Say, for example, you got married and lived the entire 36-month duration of the marriage in Miami-Dade County, then fled to Orlando due to your spouse’s domestic violence. You still have to litigate your divorce in Miami-Dade County but, if you retain an experienced South Florida family law attorney, your lawyer may be able to limit the amount of contact you have to have with your spouse.

Whether yours is an emotional and psychologically complicated case like N.D.’s or just a seemingly straightforward divorce, make sure you are as equipped as possible to achieve a positive result. Contact the skilled South Florida divorce attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys have many years of providing helpful advice and well-thought-out techniques for a full range of divorce and other family law cases. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

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