Divorce Jurisdiction and Venue

Divorce is a difficult process with many challenges, and when a divorce crosses state lines, procedural headaches can rise. The first decision is which state court is most appropriate. Unfortunately, either state may bring significant costs or delays.

For a specific court to hear a claim, the court must have the authority to rule over both the subject matter, and the persons in the action. This authority is the court’s “jurisdiction” to act. The court must also be the correct “venue,” which is the proper or most convenient location. If you do not meet all the jurisdictional and venue requirements, the case may be dismissed or transferred.

In South Carolina, the Family Court is the appropriate jurisdiction for divorce, but the parties meet must also the residency requirements. Under S.C. Code § 20-3-30, there are three possible situations which meet the residency requirements:

“[1] the plaintiff must have resided in this State at least one year prior to the commencement of the action,

[2] if the plaintiff is a nonresident, the defendant must have so resided in this State for this period, and

[3] provided, that when both parties are residents of the State when the action is commenced, the plaintiff must have resided in this State only three months prior to commencement of the action.”

S.C. Code Ann. § 20-3-30 (2016).

Out of state defendants could cause unique challenges. Let’s say a person wishes to file for divorce after recently moving to South Carolina, but the defendant lives in another state. The party wishing to file for divorce in South Carolina could be required to wait a year’s time in order to do so.

Although, a quicker option could be filing for divorce where the defendant resides, this is not always an easier route. You could face inconveniences such as finding an attorney who is far from you, traveling to court or mediation, and distant witnesses or evidence. The decision to proceed with a divorce from a spouse living in another state is complex, and will involve issues beyond those discussed here.

The circumstances of your case are unique and we encourage you to contact a divorce attorney today. Our office is eager to assist—connect with us here.