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Family Court Jurisdiction and Venue: Where do I file for divorce?

Family Court Jurisdiction and Venue: Where do I file for divorce?


One of the most common questions I receive is, “Where do I file for divorce?” The answer is not as simple as one might think, so I always respond with a series of questions.

First, I ask where both parties live and how long has each lived there. Each state has its own requirement for filing in that state, known as jurisdiction.

The South Carolina Family Court may accept divorce cases (exercise jurisdiction) when both parties have lived in the state for more than three months, or if one party lives in another state, when one party has lived in South Carolina for at least one year.

Once I determine that South Carolina Family Court may exercise jurisdiction, the next question I ask is which South Carolina county is home to each party and for how long. The county of residence allows me to determine proper venue, meaning which county’s Family Court may hear the case.

If both parties are residents of South Carolina, then the case may be filed in the county where the non-filing party lives at the time the case is filed, or in the county where the parties last resided as husband and wife. But if the filing party is not a South Carolina resident, the case may only be filed in the county where the non-filing party lives at the time the case is filed. Finally, if the non-filing party is not a South Carolina resident (and the filing party has lived in South Carolina for more than one year for jurisdiction), the case may be filed in the county where the filing party lives.

Jurisdiction and venue laws vary from state to state. It is not at all uncommon for more than one state to have jurisdiction over a case. Similarly, it is not uncommon for more than one county in South Carolina to be the proper venue.

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