Jurisdiction is a court's power to decide certain types of cases. Jurisdiction should not be confused with other important matters to consider before filing for divorce like residency and venue. Residency refers to how long someone has to live in a state before they can file for divorce there. Similarly, venue refers to the length of time you must live in a county before filing for divorce there.
The table below shows which court has jurisdiction over divorce cases in each state. As the table shows, in the vast majority of states, jurisdiction over divorce cases is vested in either the Circuit, Superior or District Court system in that county so that's the courthouse where you'll be filing your case. In New York, the county Supreme Courts have jurisdiction over divorce cases, and in Ohio and Pennsylvania, divorces cases are heard in the Common Pleas court. In Mississippi, divorce cases are handled in Chancery court. Depending on the county, your Tennessee divorce case may be heard in Chancery Court as well, although many Tennessee judges hear divorce cases in Circuit Court and sometimes even in General Sessions Court.
|State||Where to File|
|District of Columbia||Court: District|
|Hawaii||Court: Circuit (1st Circuit-Oahu, 2nd Circuit-Maui, Lanai, Molokai, 3rd Circuit-Hawaii (Hilo and Kona Divisions), 4th Circuit-Kauai)|
|Indiana||Court: Circuit/ Superior|
|Massachusetts||Court: Probate and Family Court Division|
|New Hampshire||Court: Family Division|
|New Jersey||Court: Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part|
|New Mexico||Court: District|
|New York||Court: Supreme|
|North Carolina||Court: Superior|
|North Dakota||Court: District|
|Ohio||Court: Common Pleas|
|Pennsylvania||Court: Common Pleas|
|Rhode Island||Court: Family Court|
|South Carolina||Court: Circuit|
|South Dakota||Court: Circuit|
|West Virginia||Court: Circuit|
Almost everywhere in the U.S., divorces are filed at the Court Clerk's office. The Court Clerk collects the filing fee and the divorce paperwork on behalf of the Court, and forwards your file to the judge assigned to your case. Note that New York are filed at the County Clerk's office, and Pennsylvania divorces are filed at the Prothonotary's office.
In large counties, there may be multiple branches that accept divorce filings. In Los Angeles County, California, for example there are 11 different branches that accept divorce cases. Filers there must use the Court Case Locator to determine the correct branch based on zip code. In Cook County, Illinois, the second most populous county in the U.S. and home to the City of Chicago, marital dissolution cases can be filed in any one of six locations regardless of where you live in the county. In most counties though, there's only one filing location.
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