Contesting the Choice of Venue in an Illinois Divorce
When you are the one to file a divorce petition, it is up to you to decide where to file it. This means that you will select the county circuit court in which the divorce will be handled. On the other hand, if your spouse was the one to file, he or she had the opportunity to make that choice. It may come as a surprise, however, to learn that you are not automatically stuck with the decision that your soon-to-be ex-spouse made. While he or she might have gotten the ball rolling, it is your right to contest the choice of venue, but it is important to take action quickly.
What Does “Venue” Mean?
The legal term “venue” refers to the particular court in which a case is handled. At the state level, venue refers to the circuit courts of each county, and at the federal level, venue refers to specific federal district courts. As a state matter, a divorce in Illinois is handled by the circuit court of an individual county.
According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the appropriate venue for a divorce proceeding is the circuit court of the county where one or both of the spouses live. This is where the “choice” of venue comes into play. If, for example, a couple is separated with one spouse living in Kane County and the other in DuPage County, the filing spouse would be expected to choose one of those two counties.
A petitioner may also have a valid reason to choose a country where neither of the spouses lives. If the couple described above lived in Will County for 30 years and still owned a business there, the petitioner could argue that the circuit court of Will County would be an appropriate venue.
Challenging the Choice of Venue
If your spouse has filed a divorce petition, he or she may have selected a particular county for a wide variety of reasons, including that he or she was unware that options existed. However, if any of those reasons could result in an unfair advantage for your spouse during the proceedings, you can file an objection to the choice of venue. For example, you may wish to object if:
- The selected county court has a reputation for certain types of decisions in divorce matters;
- Your spouse is famous or has influence in the selected county that could impact the ability of the court to be impartial; or
- The selected county is too far away, making appearances in court unduly difficult.
Your objection must be included in your initial response to the divorce filing. Any objections to the choice of venue will not be considered later in the process.
Venue Does Not Affect Jurisdiction
The terms “venue” and “jurisdiction” are often confused, and while they are similar in meaning, they are not the same. “Venue” is where a case is handled, and “jurisdiction” is the court’s authority to handle the case. Illinois law gives all county circuit courts jurisdiction over divorce cases, no matter where the parties live—assuming at least one still lives in Illinois. This, in effect, means that the court’s decision regarding a divorce cannot be appealed on the basis that the court did not have jurisdiction over the case.
Call Us for Help
If you have additional questions about how the choice of venue could affect your divorce, contact an experienced Kane County divorce attorney. Call 630-549-0960 for a confidential consultation today.