Understanding the Jurisdiction of Your Family Law Case is Imperative

Where will your case play out? It’s okay if you don’t immediately know the answer to that question. Family legal issues create stress and enough questions in your life to spin you around. However, the answer matters, and many people who come to us to handle their California family law matters haven’t considered the jurisdictional issues in their case.

A number of factors impact where your case can take place. It’s important to explore those issues and understand how and when your case will be handled. Ultimately, it comes down to which court has jurisdiction over the people involved and the legal issue being pursued.

Moving When Your Marriage Falls Apart

One of the most common jurisdictional issues we see in California family law cases is when someone moves from another state or area and wants to file for divorce in a new location. We live in a mobile society and people often want to uproot themselves from the place where their previous relationship existed to start anew.

This is a normal response, but barring certain mitigating circumstances (more on that below) you will actually need to proceed with your divorce where you lived during the marriage. You generally will not be able to simply move to a new state or county and immediately file a court action there.

However, if you have established residency in California or in a new county within California then you have the right to file in that county. You must live in a county for three months and the state of California for six months to file where you live. You can file for legal separation at any time if this alternative makes sense in the meantime.

Jurisdiction Over Child Custody and Support

The same six-month residency requirement applies to children. If your child has lived in California for six months then you file for child custody and support in California. If your child has not lived in California then the situation is more complicated.

Consider a scenario where you are both from California, had a child here, and eventually moved to another state and lived there for several years. The jurisdiction of your child remains in that other state. However, your marriage falls apart and you move back to California. In this case, you would still need to file in the other state (or have your spouse file there) to settle any legal disputes over custody and support. Even though your child was born here and may have moved back here with you, the matter remains under the jurisdiction of the other state courts until six months of residency have passed.

All 50 states have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) which means these same rules apply regardless of the state. The child must have established residency in a state for six months before the filing of an action for that state to have jurisdiction.

Domestic Violence Changes Jurisdictional Rules

It’s important to note, however, that jurisdiction is almost always extended outside of the home state or county if domestic violence is a factor. The courts want to protect victims of domestic violence and therefore allow cases to proceed in other courts.

The policy is protection. If a victim is able to secure a temporary protection order then they will generally be able to file just about any family court action with the protection order in hand.

At KL Family Law, we understand jurisdictional issues as they relate to California family law cases. We help clients determine the right venue for their case and ardently fight for what they deserve in their case. Contact our team if you have any questions about jurisdiction in your family law case or need further assistance with a family law matter.

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KL Family Law

At KL Family Law, we understand that your primary concern is the well-being of your children. We strive to offer tailored solutions for your family law needs and help you move forward through this difficult transition.

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