“Jurisdiction” involves placing a case in the correct state. Should the case be in Georgia or another state? “Venue” involves placing the case in the correct county in Georgia. Should the case be in Glynn County or Camden County?
There are two types of jurisdiction: subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. In Georgia, the superior courts will generally have subject matter jurisdiction over family law matters. For the court to have jurisdiction over a divorce there must a valid marriage and the person who files the case, the “Plaintiff,” must have been a resident of Georgia for six months. For the court to have jurisdiction over a child custody matter, the child must have been a resident of Georgia for six months.
Jurisdiction and Venue are important threshold considerations when initiating any legal action. Getting them wrong can lead to wasted time and money.
The court must have personal jurisdiction over the person against whom the case is filed, the “Defendant.” For a Georgia court to have jurisdiction over a Defendant, the Defendant must reside in the state or have significant connections to the state, such as having recently lived in the state, owning a business in the state, or owning land in the state. If you lived with your spouse in another state, the two of you separated, and you moved here but your spouse has never been to Georgia, the Georgia court may not have personal jurisdiction over your spouse. If so, you will not be able to proceed with your divorce in Georgia. You may have to seek your divorce in the state where your spouse is living.
The Defendant must object to personal jurisdiction at the time they file an answer to the complaint of the Plaintiff. If the Defendant does not object to personal jurisdiction, then the Defendant has consented to personal jurisdiction and the case can go forward.
Problems with subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived. Subject matter jurisdiction is given by law and cannot be changed by anything the parties do or don’t do.
Venue is generally correct wherever the Defendant is living. It is really just a matter of fairness and convenience. If you want to sue them for a divorce, you have to go to where they are.
As with everything in the law, there are always exceptions and technicalities. Be sure to consult with an experienced divorce attorney when contemplating any action.