Understanding Venue and Jurisdiction in Divorce

For many people, the process of divorce is often their first interaction with the legal system. It is not uncommon for a person considering a divorce to have questions about where his or her petition should be filed. In deciding where to file, two primary considerations must be taken into account: jurisdiction and venue. These two concepts can be somewhat confusing to those new to the legal realm but are important in making sure your case is handled properly.


A court’s jurisdiction refers to the power granted to a particular court to hear a case and issue a ruling. You must be certain to file your divorce in a court with jurisdiction over both the subject matter and the parties involved in the case.

Subject-matter jurisdiction is the authority to decide cases based on the nature of the cases. Divorce cases, for example, fall under the subject-matter jurisdiction of Illinois courts and are delegated to the courts of the individual counties. By comparison, an Illinois court does not have jurisdiction to rule on a bankruptcy case. Such cases must be heard in federal bankruptcy court.

Personal jurisdiction is equally important and refers to the court’s power regarding the parties in the case. In a divorce or family law case, an Illinois court has personal jurisdiction over both parties if at least one of the spouses has lived in Illinois for 90 days, including time spent in the military.


In a court proceeding, venue refers to the actual place in which the case will be filed and heard. For the purposes of divorce in Illinois, the expected venue is the court in the county where either spouse resides. For example, if you live in Will County and your spouse moved to Cook County when you separated, your divorce should be filed in one of those two counties. With good cause shown, you could ask the court of a different county to hear your case, but that court is under no obligation to do so.

Get Help With Jurisdictional Concerns

If you are considering a divorce and have questions about where your case should be filed, contact an experienced Orland Park divorce attorney. We realize that issues of jurisdiction and venue can be confusing, and we will work with so that you clearly understand your available options. Call 708-518-8200 for a free consultation at Kezy & Associates today and get the guidance you need.