Jurisdiction determines whether a court has authority to hear your case. There is jurisdiction over property and jurisdiction over the person. In divorce actions, there can be separate jurisdiction over the parties, and the parties’ property.
Most states require that one of the parties reside in the state for at least 6 months prior to filing for a divorce. In the absence of six months residency, the court will not exercise jurisdiction over the parties or the divorce. However, once a party has resided in the State for 6 months, then the Court will take jurisdiction over the parties to the divorce.
However, the Court may lack jurisdiction over the parties’ property. For instance, a New Mexico court will not in the absence of the consent of both parties exercise jurisdiction over property located outside the state of New Mexico. As a result, the Court may exercise jurisdiction to grant a divorce while lacking authority to divide the property of the parties.
Jurisdicitonal issues are often very important in child custody matters. New Mexico requires that children reside in the State for at least six months before the Courts here will exercise jurisdiction over time-sharing or custody. This comes up all too frequently where one of the parties relocates the children illegally to New Mexico and in an attempt to vest jurisdiction here. In most cases, the New Mexico courts will refuse jurisdiction, and will follow the orders of the children’s home state, including ordering the return of the children to their home state. However, if emergency circumstances exist suggesting that the children need the protection of the New Mexico courts, the courts here may exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction for those purposes. Unfortunately, these emergency circumstances are often falsified in an effort to gain jurisdiction in a state other than the children and the other parent’s home state.
Jurisdictional issues will dictate where you should file your case. They also dictate where you or your spouse can file the case. It is important to know the jurisdictional rules so that you avoid a costly improper filing and also to insure that the other party does not illegally attempt to vest jurisdiction in a state that will disadvantage your rights.