Venue is Proper Where Defendant Resides in Michigan Divorce Cases
One practice that is relatively common in family law cases where married people are residing in separate counties isthat the person filing a complaintfor divorce (theplaintiff) will file the complaint in the county where he or she resides.The case of Funk v Funk, COA 319467, April 2, 2015 (Unpublished) has indicated that this is not appropriate and the courtshould order the filing party to pay attorney fees to the other party if he or she objects to the venue.Jurisdiction is appropriate in Michigan divorce cases where one of the parties has resided in Michigan for at least 180 days. Venue is appropriate in a county where a party has resided for at least ten days prior to the filing of the motion. In the Funkcase,it appears the wife movedout of the marital residence into another county and filed for divorce in the new county.The wife new residence was located in Ingham County while the husband remained in CalhounCounty. Thehusband filed an objection to the venue and the court agreed. It ordered the matter transferred to Ingham County and awarded the husband attorney fees. It found that the statute provides alist of priorities for filing and the firstpriority is where thedefendant has resided for at least ten days. The county where the plaintiff resides is only a proper venue if there is no county in Michigan where the Defendant has resided for at least ten days.TheMichigan Court of Appeals affirmed this ruling. This isan interesting case in thatit is notuncommon for a person to move out of the marital home and into a neighboring county where he or she may perceive that his or her case would receive more preferential treatment. That party then files the complaint for divorce after”residing” in that county for ten days. A speaker presented this fact scenario to the audience without advising the audience of this decision and all but three or four attorneys appeared to agree that venue was proper where the Plaintiff resided (I read the case so I did not agree).In fact,
one of the arguments made by the Plaintiff in Funk against the award of attorney fees was that it is common practice to file a complaint for divorce in the county where the plaintiff resides instead of the county where the defendant resides. If the counsel for the defendant fails to do so, then the objection is waived and the case will proceed in the county where the plaintiff filed it. As a side note, it appears that ifone spouse (stationary spouse) is planning to file for divorce and the otherspouse (relocating spouse)moves to another county and resides therefor ten days,it would appear that the stationary spouse would either have to (a) file in the county where the relocating spouse resides; or (b) wait for the relocating spouse to file in thestationary spouse’s county,
or (c) argue that the relocating spouse’s county is an inconvenient forum for the divorce proceedings as defined by statute in Michigan.