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Bay Area Family Attorneys > Blog > Divorce > Game of Courts: What is “Jurisdiction” in Divorce?

Game of Courts: What is “Jurisdiction” in Divorce?


Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner continue to make waves through the news circuits. While much of the celebrity break up story is filled with the he-said-she-said rhetoric that is common in all divorces, this particular couple’s divorce has already shown itself to have nuances that others might learn from.

This week, we are reminded once again of the differing nationalities of the A-list stars. Ms. Turner is a British actress, born and raised in Europe. It comes as no surprise, then, that indicators have been put out there that Ms. Turner would like to return to Europe. This becomes complicated, of course, considering that the couple’s family home was most recently in Florida, and the father of the children resides in the U.S. and intends to stay here.

Or does he?

This week Ms. Turner’s legal team submitted a letter to the court. The letter was allegedly written by Mr. Jonas to a homeowner in the U.K., expressing a desire to raise his daughter’s in the U.K. home. This letter seems to have been submitted to the court as an attempt by Ms. Turner’s legal team to show that the couple had every intention of raising their children in England.

Even if this statement is true – does it affect where the case will be heard? This article aims to briefly discuss some basic ideas surrounding what must happen for a court to gain the ability to process a divorce and custody case – a legal concept known as “jurisdiction.”

What is Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction is a legal term that means that a court has the power and authority to make decisions in a case. Each state in the U.S. has developed its own rules as to what must happen before jurisdiction is established/ a court may hear the case. The idea of jurisdiction is in place, in large part, to protect individuals against a party filing a suit wherever they may like, in an effort to make litigation difficult/ impossible to pursue.

Intentions and Jurisdiction

In the Turner/Jonas case at hand, even if Mr. Jonas and Ms. Turner did have every intention of establishing residency in the U.K. and moving into that other country’s realm and jurisdiction – intention is not what establishes jurisdiction.

It is important for couples contemplating divorce to understand that matters of jurisdiction are matters of what has already happened – not what is planned for or may happen in the future. In California, a court will only accept and process a divorce petition if at least one of the spouses involved in the suit has actually lived in California for the six consecutive months preceding the petition. (Couples must also ensure that at least three of those months were spent in the same county that the petition was filed in.)

The take-away here is that, when at all possible, it is important to think about where you want your divorce to be processed. Once that decision has been made, do what you can to take the time to satisfy the conditions of residency and ensure that your court will have proper jurisdiction when you file.

Think Ahead – Contact Cardwell, Steigerwald Young

You should not feel resigned to process your case in the location you are presently residing. But it is important to confer with experienced legal counsel if you want to ensure that you are taking the best steps forward for yourself and your case. The experienced San Francisco divorce attorneys at Cardwell, Steigerwald Young can discuss your options with you, and help you understand what the next best steps might be in your own unique case. Contact our office to begin discussing your situation today.




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