Florida Divorce Jurisdiction is simple in theory and really complicated in practice. There are two kinds of divorce jurisdiction in Florida. The first kind is called Personal Jurisdiction. The second type is known as Subject Matter Jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction is often easier for our clients to wrap their arms around. Subject matter jurisdiction is what sometimes causes nonplussed (puzzled) looks on faces. Jonathan Jacobs is a divorce attorney in Orlando and a divorce attorney in Lake County Florida. When you need answers to your most important questions about your family law case, call us at 407-335-8113 for more information.
Personal Jurisdiction in Florida
First, let’s address the easier of the two Florida divorce jurisdiction requirements. Personal jurisdiction means exactly how it sounds; the court must have jurisdiction (the legal right to make decisions) over the person (husband or wife). Florida Statute 48.193 identifies the behaviors/acts that subject a spouse to divorce jurisdiction in Florida: “(1)(a) A person, whether or not a citizen or resident of this state, who personally or through an agent…submits himself or herself…to the jurisdiction of the [divorce] courts of this state [Florida]…With respect to a proceeding for alimony, child support, or division of property in connection with an action to dissolve a marriage or with respect to an independent action for support of dependents [paternity lawsuit], maintaining a matrimonial domicile in this state at the time of the commencement of this action or, if the defendant [Respondent] resided in this state preceding the commencement of the action, whether cohabiting during that time or not.” The moral of this story is that personal jurisdiction is the court’s authority over an individual person.
Long-Arm Jurisdiction in Florida Divorce
Have you ever heard of Long-arm jurisdiction? In plain language, long-arm jurisdiction means your spouse lives out of state and you want to have your divorce heard here in Florida. Long-arm divorce jurisdiction matters when a marriage has been over for some time, and one spouse has moved to Florida, or the other spouse has moved to another state from Florida. You still can have the court take divorce jurisdiction in Florida. Provided one party to the divorce has lived in Florida for at least 6 months and the other party has not served you with divorce pleadings from another state, Florida likely may hear your case. The Florida resident seeking to obtain jurisdiction over an out-of-state spouse will need to hire a process server to serve the respondent where he/she resides.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction in Florida Divorces
Here is the statutory language regarding Florida divorce jurisdiction that refers to Subject Matter Jurisdiction: “61.021 To obtain a dissolution of marriage, one of the parties to the marriage must reside 6 months in the state before the filing of the petition.” Subject matter jurisdiction is not about serving the other party. Subject matter jurisdiction is about the court’s authority to hear your case. A Florida divorce court may not confer subject matter jurisdiction on spouses just because they consent to Florida hearing their divorce. At a minimum, one party to the divorce must have lived here in Florida for at least six months or else the court most likely will dismiss the case or refuse to issue a final judgment. Subject matter sounds like it means the nature of the case, and in a way it does. The subject of this article is divorce, and a divorce cannot be granted in Florida until the jurisdiction is established by the six-month policy.
Jonathan Jacobs is a divorce attorney in Clermont and a divorce attorney in Orange County Florida. When you need answers to your most important questions about your divorce or paternity/family law case, call us at 407-335-8113.