Florida divorce venue is a legal concept that requires an in depth analysis. Choosing the proper venue in a contested dissolution of marriage case demands a careful assessment of Florida Statutory and case law. Venue is generally defined as the circuit court where a civil/family case must be heard, or where it may be properly adjudicated. If your case is contested and both sides want to litigate in a different county, how will the court decide where venue is proper? In this article, we will review case law precedent for guidance regarding the Florida Divorce Venue Statute. For answers to your important questions call the Jacobs Law Firm at 407-335-8113.
First, to determine Florida Divorce Venue we look backward to the seminal ruling from the Florida Supreme Court wherein the Court issued a ruling based in part on Florida Statute 47.011, the Florida Divorce Venue Statute. This Statute provides: “Actions shall be brought only in the county where the defendant resides, where the cause of action accrued, or where the property in litigation is located.” This Statute applies with certain additions and exceptions based on case law and a plethora of facts. In Carroll v. Carroll, the Court rules: “For purposes of venue in dissolution of marriage proceeding, the “cause of action” arose in county in which spouses were last present with a common intent to remain married, rather than county in which wife assuredly realized that marriage was irretrievably broken when husband came to such county and took away car four days after wife left spouse’s home. West’s F.S.A. § 47.011. 341 So. 2d 771 (Fla. 1977).
Translation? The county (examples include Orange County, Seminole County, Lake County, Osceola County) where the spouses lived together and intended to remain married (prior to one party moving somewhere else contemplating divorce) is likely the proper county for an action of dissolution. Further strengthening this principle is a more recent case, Smith v. Smith where the Court reasoned (applying the Florida Divorce Venue Statute) that the “Divorce cause of action accrued in Pinellas County for purposes of venue statute where parties last lived together in Pinellas County with intent of remaining married there, and marriage became irretrievably broken in Pinellas County when wife moved out of marital home because husband wanted to get a divorce.” West’s F.S.A. § 47.011. 430 So. 2d 521 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1983)
Florida Divorce Venue Statute
Let’s again return to the wisdom of the Florida Supreme Court in Carroll v. Carroll, for a further analysis of Florida divorce venue, “To protect the beneficial purposes of both the marriage dissolution legislation and the venue statute, we are required to look, not for the county or the scattered counties where the breach may be said to have occurred, but to the single county where the marriage last existed. In that county the intact marriage was last evidenced by a continuing union of partners who intended . . . to remain married, indefinitely if not permanently. 341 So. 2d 771, 772 (Fla. 1977). Of course, the parties did not intend to remain together permanently or there would be no filing for divorce. Naturally, the Court did not want to create forum shopping for the most advantageous divorce circuit court. It serves many purposes to identify one circuit court where an action may be brought with relative certainty it is the correct choice of venue.
Following this logic, “If a petition seeking modification of divorce decree is filed in a county where venue is appropriate, it is improper to transfer the venue to another county merely because venue also would have been proper in the other county…” Amir v. Gannon, 896 So. 2d 793 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005). In other words, years later one former spouse petitions the court for a deviation of child support or alimony. That party is not able to reverse jurisdiction without a proper analysis and factual finding that another county is now more appropriate. After all, a petition can and likely will be dismissed for lack of proper venue.
In a ruling subsequent to Carroll v. Caroll, the Florida Supreme Court colorfully wrote “Venue is not a vehicle that rolls around on wheels nor a vessel that sails the borders of the state. Venue cannot be hauled from county to county like a sack of potatoes upon the theory of ‘where the property in litigation is situated’”…Richard Bertram & Co., 155 So.2d at 412. Goedmakers v. Goedmakers, 520 So. 2d 575, 580 (Fla. 1988)
When you need answers to your questions about Florida Divorce Venue and the Florida Divorce Venue Statute is not enough to formulate a conclusion, call us at 407-335-8113.