Florida Divorce Law Grounds for Change of Venue

By Wayne Thomas

The decision of where to file for divorce may be based on convenience. In Florida, the filing spouse makes an initial election regarding which county to bring the action in, and the responding spouse is then provided a short period in which to object. Because it is possible for more than one county to meet the venue requirements, a Florida court must take into consideration the relative convenience and burdens imposed on all parties and witnesses in deciding whether to approve or deny a request for change of venue.

Overview of Venue

It is important to understand the distinction between jurisdiction and venue for divorce actions in Florida. Jurisdiction refers to the power of the state courts to dissolve a marriage, and requires at least one spouse to have lived in Florida for six months. The right to challenge jurisdiction may never be waived, and an objection by the court or parties can be made at any time during the divorce process. Venue, on the other hand, refers to which county would be the most appropriate forum to hear the case, determined by where the parties currently live and where the couple resided during the marriage. Unlike jurisdiction, the right to request a change of venue is considered waived if a timely objection is not raised.

Requirements

Under Florida law, a divorce action may only be brought in the county where the non-filing spouse currently resides, or the county where the parties lived during the marriage. This is based on the rationale that the responding spouse should have some connection with the county where the case is filed. To that end, if the action is filed in a county that does not meet these requirements, the non-filing spouse may petition the court to transfer the case.

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Reasons

Florida law provides judges with the power to transfer a case to another county to prevent injustice, or for the convenience of the parties and witnesses. If the non-filing spouse or witnesses for either side would be required to commute a great distance to participate in the case, extreme travel-associated litigation costs may support a transfer. Regardless of the facts, the burden is on the non-filing spouse to convince the court that justice or convenience requires a transfer.

Procedure

Raising a challenge to venue needs to be done by motion in Florida. The motion should indicate that another county meets the venue requirements, and must include specific facts supporting your claim that transferring the case would promote convenience or prevent injustice in this case. In addition, the motion needs to contain the signatures of at least two citizens of the county where you desire the action to be moved and be notarized. The time period for filing the motion is 10 days from the date of filing the action, unless you can show good cause to the court. Good cause might include delays in receiving the initial paperwork, but it becomes much more difficult to raise the issue as the case moves forward.

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How to File a Petition to Have Divorce Moved to Another County in Florida
 

References

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Florida Divorce Law for Change of Venue

Florida's laws of civil procedure address change of venue. These laws pertain to civil cases, including divorce cases. Whichever spouse files for divorce first may file in the county where the spouse resides or in the county where the couple last lived together. The spouse who files the initial action is known as the "petitioner," and the spouse on the receiving end of the divorce action is called a "respondent."

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For some couples, the decision to get divorced is mutual. In other cases, only one spouse wants out of the marriage or the couple disagrees on one or more issues related to the divorce, such as child support or custody. In New York, these are known as contested divorces and will be decided, in whole or in part, by a judge.

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Divorce is always difficult, but especially so if you have to travel across the state to present your case. Many states, including Alabama, limit the counties in which a divorce can be filed. Counties in which the parties have had substantial contacts are said to have "venue." If your spouse files for divorce in an inconvenient or inappropriate county, you can ask the court to transfer the case to a county with venue.

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