In some divorces, where to file for divorce is an easy decision. However, if one or both parties have moved away since separating, the decision is slightly more difficult. There are a number of legal and practical factors to consider before making this decision.
In Virginia, you can file for divorce in any Circuit Court in the state. However, there are preferred locations (called venues) that the Court will look to if your spouse objects to where you have filed. The preferred venue for divorce is where the parties last resided as a married couple. Next is the jurisdiction where the defendant resides. For example, if you resided as a married couple in Loudoun County but then you moved to Arlington and your spouse moved to Winchester, the preferred venue would be Loudoun County. If you were filing the divorce, the second choice would be Winchester.
These preferred venue rules only come into play if the defendant objects to the venue that the plaintiff selected. If the defendant does not timely object, the case will likely stay where it was filed. You should consider whether your spouse will object to a specific venue in advance to avoid the added cost and delay of changing venue.
There are also practical and logistical ramifications of your decision that must be considered as well. You may be tempted to file at the closest Courthouse so you don't have to travel far, but that may not be the best choice.
First, if you are hiring an attorney, remember that your attorney's time is your money. If your attorney has to travel an hour to get to court, that is time you may be paying for.
Also, the procedures and practices of the various courts differ. Some courts move cases through to completion faster than others. Some have set procedures that may impact your case significantly. Such strategic factors can play a useful role in the decision of where to file. An experienced attorney will be able to advise you as to the best venue for your specific case.
Lastly, you must consider where your evidence is located should you end up going to trial. Specifically, think about where your witnesses will be coming from. If you want certain people to testify in your case, you do not want to make it inconvenient for them to do so. Also, if you are going to need a financial or another type of expert, consider where that person will collect the information necessary to form their opinions. Like with your attorney, the expert's time is your money, so you want to make it as convenient as possible for them.
At ShounBach, our attorneys practice in all Northern Virginia jurisdictions from Alexandria to Fauquier County and can advise you where your suit should be filed. If you are considering filing for divorce or have been served with divorce papers, don't hesitate to contact one of our skilled Northern Virginia divorce lawyers at ShounBach.