How to Transfer Your Family Law Case to Another County or State
Family law matters can take time to resolve, anywhere between several months to over a year. During that time, your family could go through many changes. What happens in a divorce or child custody case if your spouse or co-parent moves? What if you both move away?
If the venue you originally chose for your family law case is no longer a convenient location, you can petition the court to transfer your case somewhere else. This applies to:
- Divorce, domestic partnership dissolution, or legal separation cases
- Family law cases that determine child custody or child support
- Petitions to change a previously set final divorce order or child support order
The court where you originally filed your case will approve a transfer if:
- Whoever first filed the case chose the wrong venue,
- Continuing with the current location would result in an unfair trial,
- The current venue doesn’t have a judge who is qualified to hear your case,
- You live in a different county and that court is better suited to handle your case,
- The current location is not convenient for the parties or witnesses involved, or
- Both you and your spouse, domestic partner, or co-parent agree to the transfer.
So how do you get a change of venue? The rules are slightly different if you’re moving counties versus states. The laws also change if there are any issues involving child custody or support.
How to File a Change of Venue in California Family Law
“Venue” describes the specific court where your case is filed and ultimately resolved.
U.S. law has extensive jurisdictional rules for what qualifies as a “proper” venue to file a case, depending on the people and facts involved. A knowledgeable family lawyer would be intimately familiar with these rules and can help steer you in the right direction. Your family law attorney can also help with the process of changing the venue of your case, if necessary.
To get a change of venue in a California family law case, you must file a motion for change of venue with the court where your case is currently filed. The court will consider your motion (otherwise known as a “request for order”) along with your supporting declaration.
How to Transfer Your Court Case to Another County in California
Your supporting declaration is the most important part of your motion and should not be overlooked. A well-written declaration can be the reason your transfer request gets approved.
In your supporting declaration, you must tell the court the reasons why your family’s case should be moved to another county within the state.
When deciding whether or not to allow the transfer, California courts will consider:
- The residence of the parties, witnesses, and any children who are involved,
- The physical location of most of the evidence relevant to the case, and
- The general convenience of transferring the case versus keeping it in place.
Once you’ve submitted your motion to the court, you must notify the other party, who will then get a chance to file a response if they oppose your transfer request. In their response, they can include reasons why the change of venue should not be granted.
Once the court receives the transfer motion, it will set a hearing date for both parties to answer any questions by the judge. This process is much simpler if both parties agree to the transfer.
As soon as the judge approves the transfer order, you can continue your case over at the new county where it’s been moved. You will have to pay another first appearance court filing fee.
How Do You Transfer Jurisdiction From One State to Another?
Transferring family law cases between states can get much more complicated.
Divorce and property division laws vary greatly between states. So where you file your case could make a huge impact on what you get out of the proceedings – including how much of the marital estate you keep or how much spousal support you receive. Each state also has residency requirements that you must meet before you can file there.
For example, to file a divorce petition in California, you must be a resident of the state for at least 6 months and the county where you file for 3 months. In contrast, you may be able to move to Washington state and file for divorce the next day.
The first step to transferring a divorce or legal separation between states is to establish residency according to the rules of the state you’re moving to. Only one person needs to meet the residency requirements to file in their chosen state.
However, if your case involves child custody or child support issues, the rules are different.
What About Child Support or Custody Cases?
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a federal law that governs how almost every state handles child custody and support. If your divorce or legal separation involves questions of child support or custody, UCCJEA rules will apply.
The UCCJEA technically does not allow cases to be transferred from one state to another. The location of your case will depend on your child’s home state – the state where the child and at least one parent have lived for at least 6 months. If the child has lived in multiple states during that time, their home state will be the one with the “strongest ties.”
Although uncommon, your child’s home state could decline jurisdiction if you’re able to convince the court that the location would be an “inconvenient forum.” In making this decision, the court will look at where the child currently lives and the financial situation of the parents. This can happen if a child has moved to a new state within the last 6 months.
Under the UCCJEA, you can also exercise emergency jurisdiction in certain situations – for example, if your child is in danger or if the custodial parent is no longer able to care for them. In these cases, a court outside the child’s home state could take their case. However, emergency custody orders issued by a non-home state are usually temporary.
The stakes are high in family law cases and the law can get complex when you need to change the location of your case. No matter your situation, a family law attorney can help you navigate federal and state laws in order to find a convenient venue.