Which county is proper?

Choosing the right county in which to file your Florida divorce

To begin a divorce proceeding in Florida, one of the spouses files a petition to dissolve the marriage in the state court. The court will only allow a spouse to file a divorce petition if one of the spouses has lived in Florida for at least six months.

Where was the couple last at home together in marriage?

The Florida Supreme Court established in 1977 in Carroll v. Carroll that a spouse must file a divorce petition in the Florida county where the couple last lived together “with a common intention to remain married.” The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court that had described the proper filing county as the last place the “marriage partners called home.”

In that case, the parties had tried to make a go of their marriage twice while living together in Holmes County. The wife moved alone to Okaloosa County twice when the marriage was not working out.

The wife said that the husband had traveled to her home in Okaloosa County demanding car keys and that at that moment she had known the marriage was truly over. On this basis, she argued that Okaloosa County was appropriate for filing the divorce petition. The court disagreed, however, because Holmes was the last county in which they cohabited as a married couple, so that county was the proper county for filing the divorce.

Other scenarios

If one spouse lives in Florida, but the other is not a Florida resident, the Florida resident spouse may normally file a divorce petition in any Florida county. It is unsettled whether this would be different if the couple had previously lived together in an intact marriage in a Florida county, in which case a court might require that the petition be filed in that county.

If the last place the couple lived together in an intact marriage was outside Florida, but both have since moved to Florida, the correct place to file is normally the county in which the spouse who is not filing the petition lives.

A Florida lawyer can provide advice about proper filing of a divorce in a given situation.

Carroll v. Carroll is available on Westlaw at 341 So.3d 771.

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  • The Law Office of Daniel E. Forrest represents individuals in Fort Lauderdale in high-asset divorce matters. Daniel Forrest is board-certified family lawyer and mediator serving the South Florida area.
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