Jurisdiction, What is It and Do You Have It?

Consider the following facts. You have been married 18 years. Your wife is from New York, which is where you were married and where you have lived ever since. You have a son who is now 14. You moved back home to Florida to help your mother take care of your dad. When you moved back, you got a Florida driver’s license using your parent’s address. Your wife has always made at least double and sometimes quadruple what you make and has supported you and your son. When you moved, your wife also intended to move to Florida after the end of the school year. You recently found out that your wife has been having an affair and doesn’t intend to move to Florida. You and your son are very close and he wants to come to Florida to be with you, but his mother says he needs to stay in school in New York. You want to file for divorce in Florida. Can you?

Yes, you can file for divorce in Florida. Florida law provides that a Florida court has subject matter jurisdiction over a marriage as long as one of the parties has resided in Florida for at least six months before the divorce is filed.

You need for your wife to continue to support you. Will the Florida court grant you alimony? No, the Florida court doesn’t have personal jurisdiction over your wife because she isn’t in Florida and has no connection to Florida. This means that the Florida court cannot order your wife to pay you alimony. It also means that the court can’t divide real property in New York or your wife’s retirement account.

You want your son to move to Florida and live with you. Will the Florida court address the timesharing for your son? No, pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, your son must have resided in Florida for at least six months prior to the filing of an action for the determination of timesharing.

Jurisdiction is the court’s authority over people and things. Without it the court won’t be able to address certain issues. Just because the Florida court has jurisdiction over your marriage doesn’t mean that it has the authority to address all of the issues that need to be resolved in dissolving that marriage. A qualified family law attorney can explain jurisdiction and help you determine if Florida is the best place to file for dissolution of your marriage or address any other family law matter.