The Importance of Proper Venue Selection During a Florida Divorce
The term venue, in a legal context, refers to the court in which a plaintiff can file a certain type of lawsuit. Under Florida law, there are three distinct bases for determining proper venue. However, interpreting these bases when it comes to divorce proceedings can be difficult, so if you have questions about the proper venue for initiating your own divorce proceedings, it is critical to speak with an experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce lawyer who can advise you.
According to state law, civil lawsuits can only be filed in one of three places:
- In the county where the defendant resides;
- In the county where the cause of action accrued; or
- In the county where the property involved in litigation is located.
While these rules apply to most civil lawsuits, the Florida Supreme Court has confirmed that not all of these options apply in divorce cases. For instance, the Court has affirmatively stated that the rule regarding property and litigation doesn’t apply to divorce petitions. Instead, this venue rule refers only to local actions, or proceedings against properties that have a fixed location in a specific county. Divorce proceedings, on the other hand, are of a more personal or transitory nature and even if issues related to property ownership are brought up during the proceedings, the main issue is the termination of a marriage.
Courts have also repeatedly held that when it comes to divorce proceedings, venue based on where the cause of action accrued means that the proper venue for a divorce is in a court located in the last county where the parties lived. Finally, Florida courts have allowed for the establishment of a venue in the county where the respondent, or spouse who is responding to the divorce petition, resides. In fact, this is the only basis for the establishment of a venue if the only place where the couple lived together was outside of the state. Even in these situations, however, the respondent must reside in the state at the time of filing.
Aside from these venue-related rules, there are other logistical details of a marriage that can make determining venue a complicated issue. If, for instance, a Florida resident wants to file for divorce, but his or her spouse lives out of state and the parties never lived together in Florida, then the petitioning spouse can file in any county in Florida.
Regardless of the circumstances of a case, divorcing couples must include the legal basis for choosing a particular venue in their petition. It is, however, possible for a court to order a change of venue after a divorce has already been filed, but only if:
- The other court also qualifies as a legal venue; and
- Changing the venue would be in the best interests of the parties or witnesses.
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Please call 954-945-7591 today to speak with dedicated divorce attorney Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. about the proper venue for your own Florida divorce proceedings.