What does jurisdiction mean?

Jurisdiction Q & A

What does jurisdiction mean?

  1. I hear the term “jurisdiction” thrown around in the courtroom a lot, but I have no idea what it is. What does jurisdiction mean?

A court must have jurisdiction in order to hear a matter. There is jurisdiction over the subject matter, over the person, and territorial jurisdiction. In Arizona the superior court has subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case for dissolution. However, the domiciliary requirements must be met by the parties. This means that at least one party must have lived in Arizona for at least 90 days for a dissolution. Once the court has jurisdiction, the court can grant a decree of dissolution, grant an annulment, determine custody of the children in the state, and divide community property and debts.  

  1. How does the court obtain jurisdiction over the person?

To obtain jurisdiction over the person, some form of personal service must occur, or the person makes a voluntary appearance. This allows the court to be able to make judgment for maintenance, child support and attorney’s fees.

  1. What is territorial jurisdiction?

This refers to what geographical area the court has authority over. There will be state boundaries that can limit jurisdiction in these situations.

  1. I have also heard of the term “venue.” What does venue have to do with jurisdiction?

Good question. Sometimes people confuse the terms venue and jurisdiction. They are very different. Venue refers to what county the matter was filed in. A court may have jurisdiction, but the venue may not be correct. Usually a dissolution should be brought in the county where the petitioner resides. If there is a conflict between different counties, usually wherever the petition was filed first will be designated as the venue moving forward.

  1. If I do not think that the court has either subject matter jurisdiction or jurisdiction over the person, can I object?

Absolutely. However, keep in mind that if you are objecting, there are certain time restrictions on when you can do so. Subject matter jurisdiction cannot be acquired by another party’s consent. Thus, you can object to subject matter jurisdiction at any time. Jurisdiction over a person can actually be waived. If the person makes an appearance and there was no objection made, then it is waived. 

  1. I have heard of the Arizona UCCJEA. What is that?

The UCCJEA stands for the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. The UCCJEA puts into place requirements for jurisdiction. Specifically, it puts in place requirements for territorial jurisdiction.

 7. When does this state have jurisdiction over an initial child custody determination?

In order to have jurisdiction initially, the child must have been living in Arizona at least six months prior to the proceeding beginning. If the child is absent at the time of filing, a parent must still be in Arizona. Additionally, no other state can have jurisdiction or must deny jurisdiction.

  1. Once Arizona has jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, does it continue to have jurisdiction?

Usually Arizona will continue to have jurisdiction. This is called exclusive continuing jurisdiction. However, there are certain requirements that must be met. If neither the child nor a parent has a significant connection with Arizona, then Arizona will not have exclusive jurisdiction. Additionally, Arizona will not have exclusive jurisdiction if an Arizona court or court of another state determines neither parent resides in Arizona.