If your spouse has filed a petition for divorce, he or she had the choice of where the file the petition. This means that your spouse selected the county in which the proceedings for your divorce will take place. You may be somewhat surprised to know that you are not necessarily stuck with the choice your spouse made. He or she may have initiated the divorce action, but you have the right to file an objection to the selected venue. You do, however, need to act quickly.
In the practice of the law, the word “venue” means the court system where a given case is heard. It can refer to a county court or a federal district court, but for a divorce in Illinois, a case will be heard in the circuit court of the selected county. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) provides that a divorce case should be held in the county where at least one of the spouses lives. For example, if the couple has separated, and the wife moved to DuPage County while her husband moved to Will County, the law presumes that the couple will for divorce in either of those counties.
With a valid reason, the petitioner can also select a county where neither of the parties lives. If, for example, the couple mentioned above spent most of their married life in Kane County, or both spouses work near the courthouse in Kane County, it could be argued that Kane County circuit court is a reasonable venue for their divorce.
The Issue of Jurisdiction
It is important to understand the difference between “venue” and “jurisdiction,” because the two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. While “venue” refers to the court where a case is heard, “jurisdiction” refers to a court’s authority to hear a particular case. The IMDMA specifies that all county courts in Illinois have the jurisdiction to hear a divorce case, regardless of where in the state the parties live. This means that a court’s decision in a divorce cannot be appealed on the grounds that the particular county court lacked the authority to rule on the case.
When to Challenge the Venue
Your spouse may have chosen a specific venue for any number of reasons, including that he or she did not realize that there were options. If those reasons could give your spouse an unfair advantage during the proceedings, your attorney can help you file an objection. You may wish to contest the choice of venue if:
- Your spouse is well known or has significant influence in a given county that could affect a court’s impartiality;
- The chosen county court is known for ruling a certain way on particular divorce issues; or
- The chosen county is unreasonably far away from you, making court appearances unnecessarily difficult.
If you choose to object to the venue, you must do in your response to your spouse’s filing. Motions regarding venue will not generally be heard once the case begins.
We Can Help
To learn more about the importance of venue in an Illinois divorce, or to challenge your spouse’s selection, contact an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney. Call 630-871-1002 for a free, no-obligation consultation at Andrew Cores Family Law Group today.