There are 2 things to consider when we discuss “which” court you should file in. First, we need to consider which level of court you should file in. Second, we need to consider which geographic location of a court you should file in. This situation addresses where to file when both spouses live in Florida.
First, divorces are handled in Circuit Courts, as opposed to small claims or county courts. A Florida Court can only handle your petition for Dissolution of Marriage if you have been a resident of the state of Florida for six (6) months prior to the date of filing your divorce.
Second, you need to determine which county/judicial circuit you should file your case in. Under Florida Statute §47.011, you may file a lawsuit (divorce) only in:
- The county where the defendant/respondent resides,
- Where the divorce accrued, or
- Where the marital property is located.
In order to better understand the Florida statute, we will look at each of the subsections individually. It is important to note that this Florida statute, however, does not apply to divorces against non-Florida residents.
The county where the defendant/respondent resides
This means that you should file for divorce in the county where your ex lives. If you live in Pinellas, but your ex lives in Miami Dade, the divorce should be filed in Miami Dade County.
Where the divorce accrued
This means that you should file for divorce in the county in which you and your ex last lived in as a married couple. If you married in Pasco County, moved to Pinellas County, lived there for 5 years before splitting up, and your ex now lives in Hillsborough – your divorce should be filed in Pinellas County.
Where the marital property is located
If you and your spouse own marital property, such as a house, a timeshare, or a condo, you should file for divorce in the county in which that marital property is located. If you own a house in Collier County and a timeshare in Orange County, you should file for divorce in the county in which the marital house is located (Collier).
If your case deals with minor children, you need to consider the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). This law provides for specific rules you need to follow and which court can make decisions about the minor children. The UCCJEA will need to utilize the court in the child’s home state. “Home state” means the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least 6 consecutive months immediately before the start of the divorce or child custody proceeding.
If your case has no children and no marital property, you should file the case in the county where your ex resides.
Because this area of the law has specific rules, you should consider meeting with a family law attorney to address where the divorce should be filed. Property, children, and different living situations make this a tricky thing to figure out on your own. If you guess wrong and file in the wrong court, you could face additional fees and additional paperwork and hassle transferring the divorce to the new and proper court.