There are rules describing where cases must be filed. They are technical and can be complex. It is important to file cases in the right court, to avoid unnecessary expense and aggravation.

The rules break down into two parts: Jurisdiction over the subject matter, and jurisdiction over the people. A Certified Specialist's staff may be able to tell you during your initial phone contact that your case should not be filed in this county. There are rules choosing between states and counties. If you have several choices, the Certified Specialist can tell you whether you may be better off choosing one state or county over another.

Most jurisdiction issues fall into a few categories:

  • Child custody cases are usually filed in a child's home state where the child has lived continuously for 6 months. This rule prevents a parent from running to a distant state and filing for custody, when all the relevant information is in the child’s home state. Emergency situations can result in temporary jurisdiction.
  • Divorces require that you have been a county resident for 3 months, and a state resident for 6 months. Sometimes, you can get around these rules by filing for legal separation and later converting the case to a Dissolution of the Marriage.
  • Suing to divide property or set support where one party has little or no contact with the state. Due process usually requires that a person have significant contacts with the state before he or she can be required to come here to defend against requests for financial or property orders. Doing an act in another state causing a consequence in this state, however, may be enough, and serving a summons on a party who is temporarily in the state may be sufficient.
  • San Diego County has 4 branch courts, and local rules specify the branch court in which to file cases. North County generally means the area north of the boundary of the City of San Diego, excluding the easterly portion including Ramona. Ramona and Julian cases are filed in East County.

If you have a matter that must be heard in the East County or South Bay branches, the attorneys' offices may be able to help you with a referral to a competent specialist.