Jurisdiction and Venue – Where to File

As time goes on, our society becomes more and more mobile.  Advances in technology, transportation, and infrastructure make it much easier for people to stay connected to those they love even if they live far away.  Most people no longer think anything of moving thousands of miles away from where they were raised.  If you are going through a divorce or separation, this can be a real advantage, as you can move away from a place that may have some negative memories and start fresh in a new location.  When you are ready to file for divorce or custody, however, especially if you or your spouse has relocated, it is essential for you to understand jurisdiction and venue, as this will dictate where the case needs to be filed.

Although jurisdiction and venue are both essential, they are not the same concept.  Jurisdiction refers to whether a court has the authority to make decisions about the people and property involved in the case.  New Jersey state law provides that either you or your spouse has to have been a resident of the state for at least one year leading up to filing the petition for divorce.  The exception to this is if you are alleging adultery as grounds for your divorce.  Note that even if you or your spouse meets the jurisdiction requirements, New Jersey may still not have jurisdiction over all of the issues in your case if you and your spouse share children.  Jurisdiction over a child custody determination is governed by the Uniform Child Custody and Enforcement Act; that statute essentially requires that the court make an initial child custody decision needs to be the child’s “home state,” as defined by New Jersey law.  Jurisdiction also includes making sure your case is filed in the proper type of court in New Jersey.  For example, Superior Courts have jurisdiction to hear a divorce case, where, by contrast, a criminal court could not hear the case.

After you have determined that New Jersey has jurisdiction over your divorce or custody case, you will then need to select the proper venue.  Venue refers to where in the state to file the divorce.  To determine the proper county for filing your divorce, you will need to reference the New Jersey court rules.  These rules state venue is determined based on the following:

  1. The county where you are domiciled when you file your case;
  2. If you are not domiciled in New Jersey when you file, the county where your spouse is domiciled when you file your case;
  3. If neither you nor your spouse are domiciled in New Jersey when the cause of action arose, the venue is proper in the county where you resided when the case was started; or
  4. If you are not domiciled in New Jersey, the county where your spouse is domiciled when he or she gets served with process for the case.

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Contact us today and let us talk to you about your divorce and procedural requirements.  We have extensive experience helping our clients understand the process and helping them to move forward. 

Are you interested in seeking an annulment? If so, contact Williams Law Group, LLC right away. Our family law attorneys will review your case to determine if an annulment is an option. If it is, we will guide you through the process and ensure you make the best decisions for your future. Call our office at (908) 738-8512, email us atinfo@awilliamslawgroup.com, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation

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