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Jurisdiction and Venue in Divorce Cases

Venue is the place, county, or geographical area that an action is brought. Jurisdiction deals with the proper court to hear the case and the court’s power to hear the case. For purposes of a divorce action, the action is typically filed in the state where the parties have resided for a period of time prescribed by statute. For example, in order for Michigan courts to have jurisdiction over a divorce action the parties must have resided in the state for at least 180 days prior to the filing. Every state has different statutes and residency time frames. Either party may file a divorce action in the appropriate trial court if the residency requirements have been met. A district court, trial court, family court, or probate court may handle divorce matters.

Fault vs. No-Fault States

If the parties were married in a fault-based divorce state and relocate to a no-fault divorce state, the parties may seek to file their divorce action in the no-fault state, if they meet the residency requirements.

Continuing Jurisdiction

Typically, the court that issued the divorce decree has continuing jurisdiction over matters that may arise after the divorce decree has been issued. If one party has relocated, the petitioning party may ask the court that originally had jurisdiction over the matter to hear a motion relating to modifications sought in the original divorce decree. The original court will probably have jurisdiction over modification or termination of alimony or spousal support. The court will also have jurisdiction over custody, visitation, and child support issues.

Jurisdiction and Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

The same court that has jurisdiction over a parties’ divorce action will probably also have jurisdiction over issues relating to prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. A prenuptial agreement is an agreement that the parties entered into prior to marriage. The agreement separates the parties’ property and may provide limitations on the amount of alimony or assets that the spouse may be entitled to in the event of a divorce. A postnuptial agreement is an agreement as to the disposition of the parties’ property in the event of death or divorce. Postnuptial agreements may also deal with alimony and support issues.

Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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