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  • Jennifer LaVia

WHY IS JURISDICTION IMPORTANT IN FAMILY LAW CASES?

Updated: Oct 18, 2021


Learn more about the meaning of jurisdiction and its role in family law



“Jurisdiction” refers to the power of the court to decide a case. If the court doesn’t have

jurisdiction, it can’t hear the case. There are two kinds: jurisdiction over the subject (“subject

matter jurisdiction”) and jurisdiction over the people (“personal jurisdiction”). For example, a

county court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the subject of dissolution of marriage. Only a circuit

court can grant a divorce. That’s why if you file a divorce case in county court, it will get

dismissed.


For a dissolution of marriage, one of the spouses must have lived in Florida for at least 6 months

immediately before filing the petition for dissolution. If one spouse lives out of state, but the

other spouse has been in Florida for the required 6 months, the court has jurisdiction to grant a

dissolution.


But the court also needs jurisdiction over the people in the case, to be able to issue an order. The

rules are very specific about how the court gets personal jurisdiction. By filing a petition for

dissolution, you give the court jurisdiction over you. But for the court to have jurisdiction over

your spouse, you must make sure that your spouse is served with a summons issued by the Clerk of Court in the county where you are filing. This step often trips up people who are trying to

represent themselves.


If you just need help with getting your spouse served, but don’t want a lawyer to represent you in

the whole case, LaVia Law can provide limited representation, which will help make your

divorce more affordable.




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