Jurisdiction and venue are two issues that serve as an undercurrent to Minnesota divorce and family law cases.
While not typically a “front and center” problem, it is important to recognize that the outcome of your case can hinge on where a case is handled, or whether the court has jurisdiction over it at all.
There are two types of jurisdiction: (1) subject matter jurisdiction; and (2) personal jurisdiction.
Subject matter jurisdiction is not typically an issue in a marital dissolution action, as there are statutes that specifically grant Minnesota Courts with the authority to dissolve one’s marriage, determining custody, child support, property allocation and spousal maintenance in the process. Naturally, subject matter jurisdiction deals with the “subject” of divorce. With clear statutory authority, there is usually little point to contesting an action for marital dissolution on such a basis.
There are two situations, however, in which the Court may not have subject matter jurisdiction over a particular marriage. The first involves a situation in which neither party has been a resident of the State of Minnesota for more than 180 days. The second involves a situation in which your marriage is void as a matter of law.
Personal jurisdiction involves the Court’s authority over an individual, and is viewed on a “statewide” basis. So long as a litigant is a resident of the State of Minnesota, and is served properly, Minnesota Courts have personal jurisdiction.
Questions arise, however, when one party resides in the State of Minnesota, and the other party does not. A litigant can either submit to personal jurisdiction, or they may be found to have sufficient “minimum contacts” with Minnesota, so as to justify the Court exercising authority over that individual.
Even if the Minnesota Courts do not have personal jurisdiction over your marriage, they may have personal jurisdiction over the issues surrounding custody and parenting time of a child.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a national set of statutes that determine where the most appropriate locale is for various custody disputes. It is important to keep in mind that those laws govern only custody disputes – they do not confer jurisdiction concerning the dissolution of a marriage. In other words, it is entirely possible to have two separate cases (one divorce and one custody) in two separate states.
“Venue” refers to the specific county in which a case may be brought. The general rule is that a dissolution action may be brought in any county in which either party is a resident at the time of filing.