Jurisdictional Divorce Issues

What are jurisdictional divorce issues?

Jurisdictional divorce issues involve what court can hear the divorce matter. Who files for divorce first, who serve the petition first, and what state the case is filed in can have significant consequences on the process of dissolution. Moreover, if there are minor children, an issue of what state can decide issues of child custody and child support can arise and further complicate the matter.

What is Personal Jurisdiction?

Generally, a court has personal jurisdiction (you have to appear in the court of that state) if you are a resident of that state, you are physically present in the state when you are served with service of process (i.e. petition for divorce), or you have minimum contacts with that state (i.e. you own property in the state, or you do business in the state, etc).

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA):

In divorce matters involving minor children, the court must decide whether it can rule on child custody issues. 49 states, with the exception Massachusetts, have adopted the UCCJEA. In general terms, under the UCCJEA, a state court will rule on the issue of child custody if:
• The state making the decision is the child’s home state, meaning that the child has resided in the state for at least 6 months;
• The child has significant connections with people in the state – such as a parent, grandparents, doctors, teachers.
• The child is in the state for safety reasons, such as abuse, neglect or abandonment;

Can the parties agree to jurisdiction?

The parties can agree to where the action will be filed. That is one way of resolving the complicities of jurisdictional divorce issues.