How Maryland Venue Rules Limit Where You Can Pursue Your Divorce Case

When you’ve decided to make the life-changing decision to pursue a divorce, there are likely many goals you desire to accomplish. One thing you probably want is an efficient process and closure that is as swift as possible. There are several things that go into making that happen, and one of those is ensuring that you’ve filed in the right place. Choose incorrectly, and your divorce petition could get thrown out for lack of jurisdiction or for improper venue. To avoid these missteps and get your divorce as expeditiously as possible, along with accomplishing many other goals, be sure to rely on representation from an experienced Maryland divorce attorney.

As an example of how the issue of venue can derail a case, there is the recent case of one Carroll County wife. In January 2019, the wife filed for divorce in Baltimore. At the time, both spouses lived in Carroll County. The husband promptly asked the court to throw out the wife’s case due to “improper venue.” Improper venue means that the plaintiff has filed the action in the wrong location and that the case if it is to proceed, must proceed in a trial court in a different place. In this case, the husband’s argument was that Carroll County was the only proper venue for litigating the couple’s divorce.

The trial judge in Baltimore sided with the husband and granted his request for dismissal. The wife asked the court to reverse that dismissal, arguing that Baltimore was a proper location to litigate the case, as the spouses married at Baltimore’s Church of the Redeemer. Nevertheless, the judge denied the wife’s request, and the dismissal remained in effect.

The Court of Special Appeals upheld that ruling. The reason for the husband’s success lay within Maryland’s venue rules. The wife, in her divorce filing, didn’t just assert a claim for divorce. She also asserted claims for annulment and for “conversion/taking,” based on the husband’s alleged having wrongfully taken “and disposed of” the wife’s dog, a vehicle titled in her name and a “long list of personal property.”

The various Maryland venue rules for divorces, annulment cases and other civil actions

Generally speaking, Maryland’s laws that set the rules for proper venue say that the correct location for filing a civil lawsuit is any “county where the defendant resides, carries on a regular business, is employed, or habitually engages in a vocation.” Additionally, the law says that divorces can also be filed in the county where the plaintiff lives. Annulment cases can also proceed in the county where the wedding occurred.

This couple married in Baltimore. The wife lived in Carroll County. The husband lived and worked in Carroll County. Both spouses had lived in Carroll County for a long time. That meant that the trial court in Baltimore could decide an annulment case, but could hear only the wife’s annulment claim, and could not rule on her divorce or conversion/taking claims. The trial court in Carroll County was the only place where a judge could rule on all three of the wife’s claims, which meant it was the only court where the venue was proper, and the husband was entitled to a dismissal of the Baltimore filing.

Many things go into navigating the divorce process successfully in Maryland. One of the first steps is deciding to file and then, once that’s decided, ensuring that you’ve filed with the correct court. To make sure procedural errors don’t trip up your divorce case, count on experienced Maryland divorce attorney Anthony A. Fatemi to provide the effective representation you deserve. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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