What is “Venue” and Why Does it Matter?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

When you are involved in a lawsuit, such as a divorce or custody dispute, you will hear all sorts of legal terminology from the attorneys and the court involved in your case. Two terms you may hear early in a case are “jurisdiction” and “venue”. Don’t worry if you are unfamiliar with these terms, you are not alone. However, they actually really important legal concepts that are worth your while to understand and distinguish.

Jurisdiction is Latin for “to speak the law”. A court must have jurisdiction over the subject and people in a case to enter valid orders. This is significant because any order entered by a court that lacks jurisdiction is void. So if the parties to a lawsuit spend all of the time and money on a case from beginning to trial, it is all wasted if the court lacked jurisdiction to enter the order.

Venue, on the other hand, refers to the physical county where a case must be filed and trial must occur. According to the North Carolina General Statutes, a lawsuit “must be tried in the county in which the plaintiffs or the defendants, or any of them, reside at its commencement, or if none of the defendants reside in the State, then in the county in which the plaintiffs, or any of them, reside; and if none of the parties reside in the State, then the action may be tried in any county which the plaintiff designates…”

In plain English, this means that a divorce or property division case may be filed in a county where either spouse resides. For example, if you and your spouse spent your marriage in Wake county and continue to live there throughout your separation, then a Wake county court is the proper venue for your case. But if you continue to live in Wake county during your separation but your spouse moves to Indiana, then Wake county is the proper venue. However, if you live in Wake county and your spouse moves to Durham county, venue may be proper in either county. Regarding child support and custody suits, venue is proper in the county where either parent or the child resides.

Significantly, unlike jurisdiction, trying a case in the wrong venue is not fatal to a final order. This is because if a party has a problem with the venue of the lawsuit, they are required to object to the venue otherwise their complaint is waived. There are times that parties seek to change venue. This may occur if the designated county is not the proper one, for the convenience of witnesses, or due to a judge’s conflict on interest.

Let New Direction Family Law Assist You

Legal disputes regarding separations, divorces, property division, and child custody are complex. At New Direction Family Law, our attorneys are smart, knowledgeable, and detail-oriented. If you need family law assistance, let us fight for your legal rights and help you get things right the first time. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or visit us online at our website.