Like other states throughout the United States, Florida has some jurisdictional requirements that must be met in order for there to be a divorce in their court system. Under the jurisdiction requirement, there are three jurisdictional steps that a party must meet for their divorce proceeding to occur in the Florida court: subject matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, and venue.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Subject matter jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear cases of a particular type or cases relating to a specific subject matter, and it cannot be waived by either party. In divorce proceedings, pursuant to Florida Statute 61.021, one of the parties to the marriage must reside in the State of Florida for at least six (6) months prior to the filing of the divorce petition. See Florida Statute 61.021. The term “reside” means that you must have a legal residence in Florida, not a temporary residence. See Florida Statute 1009.21(d)
At least one of the parties to the divorce must meet this residency requirement, and that will give a Florida court subject matter jurisdiction over the divorce. If the spouse who files the divorce petition is seeking alimony, division of property, or child support, the court must also have personal jurisdiction over the other spouse to the divorce.
Personal jurisdiction refers to the power that a court has to make a decision regarding a party, in a divorce, one of the spouses in the divorce proceeding. Whether a court has personal jurisdiction over an individual in a particular case depends on that person’s past, present, and ongoing contacts with the State of Florida. See Florida Statute 48.193
As stated previously, the Florida courts have found that the court must have personal jurisdiction over the non-filing spouse if they are seeking alimony, child support, or the division of property even though the court does not need to have personal jurisdiction over them to simply grant a divorce. For child custody proceedings, see Florida Statute 61.514.
In a divorce proceeding, a Florida court exercises personal jurisdiction over a spouse if they maintained a marital residence in the State of Florida at the time the divorce action began or if they resided in the Florida before the divorce proceedings began. Unlike subject matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction can be waived.
Venue is a geographical question that concerns whether a case has been filed in the proper Florida court. For divorce proceedings, the proper venue is either in the county where the spouses last resided as a married couple or in the county in which the non-filing spouse resides.
Before you begin your divorce process, if you or your spouse meet the three (3) above jurisdictional criteria’s, your divorce may then proceed in the Florida family court system.