When a petition for dissolution of marriage is filed by either party, husband or wife, it is generally filed in the county where both parties reside. However, there are some exceptions. For example, if the parties have been separated for a period of time and live in different counties, it may be filed where only one party currently resides.
To file for divorce in Indiana, there is a residency requirement. Specifically, the law states that at least one of the parties shall have lived in Indiana for at least six (6) months, and the county of filing for three (3) months.1 This statute also provides provisions for residency requirements if either party is in the military. These will not be explored in this blog post, but this is important to be aware of particularly for military families.
So, the filings must be made with the county at least one party has resided in for at least three (3) months. But must the couple then stay in the court the case is assigned to or county where it is filed? The answer is generally no, but there are limitations.
The first option is for one party to file for a change of judge. In civil actions, a party may move once to change judge, without having to state a specific reason for same.2 Specific to family law, the rule for change of judge also notes that after a final decree is entered in a divorce or paternity action and a modification is filed, one change of judge may be made for petitions to modify that decree.
The other option is for the parties to agree to move the case to another county. This is rare, however. After the case is filed, the parties can work together to agree to change the county hearing the case, and can file a motion to choose another county. This cannot be done with only one party desiring this - there has to be an agreement. Typically this is accomplished by a stipulation to venue in a certain county. However, one of the parties still has to have lived in Indiana for six months.
Once the parties agree, they file the agreed change of county and move the case, as long as jurisdiction is accepted by the new court. There are several reasons for wanting to move a case out of county, and probably the most notable is for privacy reasons.
While paternity matters are confidential, divorce proceedings are not. Therefore, divorce filings and other information become public record, accessible by anyone. The parties may also agree to change venue because they are high profile in the area, and do not want their divorce to occur “in their own backyard”.
Whatever the reason, a change of venue through agreement can be arranged in divorce proceedings. It is wise to consult with an attorney as this process can be complex, and is statute-based.
We hope that this blog post has been helpful in exploring the potential for a change of judge/venue. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices law throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.