Venue refers to the proper county within California, that has proper jurisdiction of your family law case. Generally, proper venue for trial of a marriage divorce proceeding is the county in which either the petitioner or respondent has been a resident for three months preceding the commencement of the proceeding. (CCP section 395(a)). However, this same three month requirement does not apply to legal separation. Therefore, a common tactic for the “first filing” spouse when neither spouse has established residency in a California county, is to file in their county of residence for legal separation, then amend the petition to request divorce once the three month residency requirement has been met.
A respondent can challenge the petitioner’s choice of venue (county where the case was filed) by filing a timely motion. (CCP sections 396(b), 397). Although not common, there are scenarios where a couple split up, and both move to separate counties. If they each file for divorce in their respective county, assuming the three month requirement is met, venue would be proper in both counties. (CCP section 395(a)). In such cases, the court which first acquires jurisdiction by service of process has the right to retain jurisdiction and the other action must be dismissed. (Mungia v. Super.Ct. (1964) 225 Cal.App.2d 280, 283). The proper way to dismiss the action is with a motion to quash.