Jurisdiction in Florida Divorce

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This article is going to be the shortest, least troubling way I can explain the concept of jurisdiction in Florida divorce.  I am not going to use citations to case law, to statutes or to the Rules of Civil Procedure.  You're just going to have to take my word for it.

There are several facets to Jurisdiction.  Personal, Subject Matter, Venue and Residency.

In order for the Florida Court to hear your petition for Dissolution of Marriage you must have been a resident for six (6) months prior to filing.  The Court can grant you a divorce if you've been a resident for six months prior to filing, even if your spouse doesn't live in Florida and hasn't for years!

This is not to say, rush to the Court House.  The Court has the ability to divorce you, but it lacks Personal Jurisdiction over your spouse to make him/her pay you alimony, comply with an equitable distribution split, etc...

In order to get personal jurisdiction over your spouse you need to have him/her served in the State of Florida by a licensed process server.  If you've been a resident for six months, and you have your spouse served here you are clear (if he/she hasn't filed in another state already) BUT you still need the appropriate venue.

If you own property in Florida the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over that property.  If there are children that were born here, the Court has jurisdiction over them as well.

Venue is proper in the last county where the marital domicile was sitatued.  If you and your spouse owned a home in Collier County, Florida, s/he moved to Texas and s/he comes back for a visit, you effectuate service in the State with the Petition and accompanying documents you've filed in Florida Court, you are good to go!

There are probably one hundred variations on this theme including, military deployment, what is residency?  What if there are kids but no property?  What about child support, etc...?

You can see why each case presents a unique issue, but that is beyond the scope of this article.  At its simplest you now know what it takes to get residency, venue, personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction in Florida.  The toughest part of this, however, is acknolwedging this is only the beginning of this process!  All this is necssary just to start the Divorce.

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