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Jurisdiction and Venue: Where Do I File my Family Matter?

Texas has very specific rules on where you can file your family law case. Below we have outlined a guide to help you figure out where you can file based on the type of case.

Firstly, before a court in Texas hears a family law matter and issues orders, it must have proper jurisdiction or authority over the subject matter and the parties. Also, if children are involved, the court must also be able to exercise jurisdiction over the children.

While jurisdiction refers to the authority or power of a court to hear and decide a particular type of legal matter or case, venue, deals with the proper geographical location or court where a legal case should be heard. It determines the specific court within a particular jurisdiction that is most appropriate for resolving a particular dispute. Venue rules are typically based on considerations such as the location of the parties involved, the location where the events giving rise to the dispute occurred, or the location where the contract was entered into. The purpose of venue rules is to ensure that cases are brought before a court that is convenient for the parties and related to the matter at hand.

For example, once it is determined Texas has jurisdiction over a case and the parties, you must then decide where to actually file.

Where Can I File for Divorce in Texas?

Divorces can be filed in the county where either party has lived for the last 90 days, as long as they have also lived in Texas for at least the last 6 months. In other words, as long as one spouse meets this requirement, the divorce can be filed in the specific Texas county that spouse lives.

Texas Jurisdiction Over Child Custody

The first step in understanding custody jurisdiction is understanding the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (or the UCCJEA). Each state has codified the provisions of the UCCJEA in its own laws and statutes.

In Texas under the Texas Family Code, a court has jurisdiction for an initial custody determination if the child lived in Texas with a parent or person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months before the custody case was filed. This would make Texas the child’s “home state.” However, if the child has no home state, a court would have to consider a number of factors such as connection to the state to determine if Texas can be found to be the child’s home state.

Under the UCCJEA, if there is already an order involving the children, either in-state or out-of-state, the court that issued that order remains the court having “continuing exclusive jurisdiction” of the children unless a few different scenarios under the Texas Family Code apply.

Texas Jurisdiction Over Child Support

Like the UCCJEA, Texas has adopted another uniform act, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, to deal with child support issues.

If you would like to enforce an out-of-state child support order in Texas, you must first make sure Texas will have personal jurisdiction over the out-of-state parent.

In Texas, the court may exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state or non-resident party if one of the following criteria is met:

  • The non-resident party is personally served with process within Texas
  • The non-resident party submits to the jurisdiction of Texas by consent, entering a general appearance, or filing a responsive document with the Texas court
  • The non-resident party resided with the child in Texas
  • The non-resident party resided in Texas and provided prenatal expenses or support for the child
  • The child resides in Texas due to the acts or directives of the non-resident party
  • The non-resident party engaged in sexual intercourse in Texas, which may have resulted in the conception of the child
  • The non-resident party asserted parentage in the Texas paternity registry

If none of the above criteria are met, you will have to enforce the child support order in the issuing state.

If one or more of the above criteria are met, you must register the child support order in Texas, notify the other parent, and give the noncustodial parent 20 days to respond. The noncustodial parent may dispute the child support enforcement based on personal jurisdiction or some other relevant reason.

Where Can I File for Adoption in Texas?

An adoption can be filed in the county where the Petitioner resides or where the child resides regardless of another court having continuing exclusive jurisdiction under the Texas Family Code.

Have Questions? Contact Hunt Law Firm, PLLC Today

If you have any questions regarding your family law matter, call (832) 781-0320 today to schedule an initial consultation.