Where Do I File for Divorce, Custody, Timesharing, and/or Child Support in Florida?

As a Jacksonville, Florida family law attorney, I often get questions from clients as to where their case should be handled if two parents and/or spouses live in two different cities. The question is one that does not always have an easy answer, as there are Florida family law rules governing, Florida statutes establishing the correct place to file a case, and there is also Florida case law that is down from the courts on the subject. Therefore, like many things in family law matters, it depends on the circumstances. To best answer this question, examples can be quite useful.

Example 1: Marie and Hank are married and spend the bulk of their marriage in Jacksonville, Florida where they purchase a home. After eight years of marriage, Marie and Hank decide to separate and Hank takes a job in Atlanta, Georgia. After a year of separation they would like to get a divorce realizing that reconciling is not an option.

Even though Hank is now a resident of Georgia and could technically file for divorce in Georgia, there is an issue of Georgia having control over the property of the marital home. Therefore, in order to make the divorce as clean as possible, Marie and Hank would most likely need to file for divorce in Jacksonville, Florida where the marital home is located. If they decide to file in Georgia, then Marie and/or Hank may have to take extra steps to enforce any court orders regarding the marital home.

Example 2: Maggie and Fred have a child, Calvin, together. They reside as husband and wife in Orlando, Florida for five years and then decide to separate. Fred and Maggie agree that given the demands of Maggie’s job, Fred could have majority time-sharing with Calvin. Fred and Calvin then move to be closer to Fred’s parents in Jacksonville, Florida. After seven months of living separately, Maggie decides to file for divorce in Orlando, Florida. Fred contests that Jacksonville is the proper place for the case since that is where he and Calvin live.

In this scenario, according the UCCJEA, which establishes jurisdiction of a child for court purposes, the child’s residence for the six month before filing for divorce is in Jacksonville, so Fred could and should move the case to Jacksonville.

Example 3: Martha and Henry have a child, Charlie. They divorce in Pensacola, Florida in 2010. In 2011, Martha and Charlie move to Jacksonville and Henry moves to Miami, Florida. In 2012 Martha wants to get a modification of child support and Henry wants to modify his time-sharing schedule. Neither party is sure where to file.

This issue arises often in family law cases. In this type of case, the case law and Florida Statutes indicate that the case is still in Pensacola, Florida unless and until that court relinquishes jurisdiction (i.e. the courts are held in different jurisdictions, Duval County is the 4th judicial circuit) to another court. Either party may request that the court in Pensacola relinquish its hold of the case so that the parties may go to court in a more convenient location. If both parties are requesting the change, then Martha would win for the case to be moved to Jacksonville over Miami since it is where Charlie resided for at least six (6) months.

Dealing with these issues in a family law case can be challenging. If you are going through a divorce or need to modify a prior order, then you should speak with an experienced family law attorney to find out your rights and options.