The spouse who files for divorce in Illinois gets to choose the location – or the “venue” – of the divorce. This means that, by filing in a particular county’s circuit court, he or she decides where the divorce will take place. However, if your spouse has decided to file for divorce in a certain venue and you do not want the divorce to be handled there, you actually have the right to contest their choice of venue.
Venue vs. Jurisdiction
In order to understand why a divorce can move to a different court during a divorce case, it is important to distinguish between “venue” and “jurisdiction.” Occasionally, people will use these terms interchangeably, but they are not the same. Venue refers to the county court in which the case is heard. As stated earlier, divorce in Illinois is handled by the circuit court of the county in which the divorce is filed. The standard choice of venue is a circuit court in the county in which one or both spouses live. Jurisdiction refers to the authority of a court to hear a case. Illinois law allows jurisdiction by all county circuit courts over all divorce cases, no matter where the spouses live – if at least one spouse still lives in Illinois.
Why Object to a Venue?
There are a number of reasons that one spouse may object to the other spouse’s choice of venue. The spouse who files for divorce will choose a venue that is convenient for them – either because it is close by, because they know people and have influence in that county, or because they believe the court has a reputation for making certain kinds of decisions in similar cases. Any of these reasons can give the other spouse a good reason to file for divorce. So, if you fear your spouse has influential friends in the county in which they filed, or if the county is so far away that appearing in court would be difficult for you, you can object to the venue. Similarly, if your spouse’s chosen venue has a real or perceived reputation of making decisions that would negatively affect your preferred outcome in your divorce case, you can object to the venue. Any objection must be done before anything else, and in response to the original filing – once the case begins, the venue generally will not be allowed to change.