How to determine the appropriate Florida county for filing for divorce
Venue is the legal principle that determines which court or courts have the legal power to hear a particular dispute. A spouse filing for divorce in Florida should normally file the petition in state court in the county in which the parties last lived together as a married couple with the intention to stay married – considered the county where the “cause of action accrued.”
Mutual intention to live together and remain married in a Florida county
Sometimes, spouses in divorce disagree about what county that was and the nonfiling spouse might try to get venue moved to a different county on that basis. The original court may order this change of venue only if the other court would have been a proper, legal venue in which to file the petition in the first instance, plus a secondary reason exists like the move would serve the interest of justice or be more convenient for witnesses or parties.
Determining where the couple last mutually intended to live in marriage is a question of fact but can become a problem where they disagree about what their intentions actually were.
For example, in Crawford v. Crawford, the court found Leon County was last place the divorcing couple lived with a common intention to stay married, although the wife had rented an apartment in Duval County to run a family business during the workweek, since the spouses spent most weekends together either at home in Leon County or at the apartment. They kept the marital home in Leon County, where it had been for eight years. The husband stayed there, and the couple’s personal property was also on the premises.
Identification of the county where a couple last lived in an intact marriage may be a detailed factual analysis as the court made in Crawford.
Venue is generally also allowed in a divorce in the Florida county where the respondent (nonfiling) spouse lives (if the respondent lives in the Sunshine State). This may be the only venue if the last the couple lived together intending to remain married was in another state. In addition, if the respondent does not live in Florida, but the petitioner does and has for at least six months, the petitioner may file in any Florida county.
Venue is complex and can be the object of dispute in divorce. An attorney can review the details of a marriage and advise a spouse about which Florida counties are potentially proper for venue for the divorce case.
(The Crawford case is available on Westlaw at 415 So.2d 870.)