Jurisdiction over a case is one of those legal concepts that clients fail to recognize. Jurisdiction is a legal concept meaning authority to hold judgment over a person. We are the United States of America which means we have 50 states that could have jurisdiction. For court orders to be valid or enforceable the court must have proper jurisdiction.
There are two types of jurisdiction relevant to family law in Nevada; 1) In personam jurisdiction, which is jurisdiction over the person, and 2) In rem jurisdiction, which is jurisdiction over the subject matter. A court may have jurisdiction over a person residing in Nevada, but not over the children because they live in Florida.
The basic requirement for jurisdiction is residency. In a divorce, child custody or family law matter the court requires six weeks of residency to have jurisdiction over a divorce and six months to have jurisdiction over child custody or child support issues. Residency is not defined by your drivers license or voter registration. To the Family Law Court residency is all about where you and children physically resided.
We often see some interesting jurisdictional issues. For example a couple with two children has always lived in Nevada. The have been separated for seven months, with one spouse continuing to live in Nevada, while the other spouse moved with the children to Texas seven months ago. In this example the spouse in Nevada could not properly file for divorce in Nevada because the Nevada court would not have jurisdiction over child custody or child support. The proper jurisdiction for this case would be Texas.
If the children had only been in Texas for three months then the spouse located in Nevada could file for divorce in Nevada. Because Texas's six month requirement for jurisdiction had not been met Nevada would still have jurisdiction.
In some cases the jurisdiction issues are so complicated that it requires a UCCJEA Conference. Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act the judges would schedule a conference call to discuss which state should have jurisdiction. A good example of this would be if the Nevada spouse, in our previous example, had custody of one child and the Texas spouse had custody of the other child. Both states could have jurisdiction and if the couple filed for divorce in their respective states. The courts would need to decide who is going to have jurisdiction.
The importance behind jurisdiction is each state has different laws. These different laws regarding custody, child support figures, and community property could have a drastic effect on the outcome of the divorce. .
Stacy Rocheleau is owner and managing partner of Right Lawyers in Las Vegas, Nevada, Stacy specializes in family law, divorce, and child custody law. You may reach Stacy at www.rightlawyers.com or contact her at (702) 914-0400.