For most people, going to court is an inconvenience in itself. If you have to travel a great distance or go to an unfamiliar county, this can add even more stress to an already difficult situation. If you act quickly, however, you may be able to request that the case be transferred to a more appropriate county.
Location, Location, Location
Both state and federal laws have rules regarding the venue of a case, or where you or law enforcement can properly file it. Sometimes several venues are appropriate. For example, you can often file a divorce in the county where either spouse currently resides. For other civil lawsuits, the appropriate venue is often in the county where the person being sued lives. If the lawsuit involves a contract, the county where the terms of the agreement were to be carried out might also be an appropriate venue. If the lawsuit involved personal injury, it might be the county where the accident occurred, and in criminal cases, the appropriate venue is typically the county where the crime was committed.
Grounds for Transfer
You must have grounds to change the venue of a case – a legally supportable reason such as that the case was filed in a county that is not considered an appropriate venue under the law. Another basis for a change of venue might exist if the current county is highly inconvenient to you or others involved in the case. An example might be if you and all the witnesses to a divorce live in southern Texas, but your spouse filed in northern Texas where she relocated. Another basis would be if you can demonstrate that you would not be given a fair trial in the current venue, such as in a criminal case where there has been so much publicity in the local news that no jury would be capable of being impartial.
Filing the Motion
You can request a change of venue by filing a motion with the court where your case is currently pending after you determine the appropriate grounds. A motion is a formal written request to the presiding judge. You must format the motion according to local court rules which can vary from location to location, but some courts offer fill-in-the-blank forms for your convenience. Explain in the motion the reason why you want the case moved. Sign the document in the presence of a notary and mail a copy to the person on the other side of the case, such as your spouse, the prosecutor or someone who is suing you. That party will then have an opportunity to object to the transfer. The court will ultimately decide whether to grant your request.
You must file your motion to transfer the case as soon as possible. Most states have specific time frames for doing this. For instance, you must typically file the motion within 10 days after the lawsuit is initiated in Florida unless you can show good cause why you waited. You may have more time in a Florida small claims case. You must file the motion before the defendant submits his initial response to the lawsuit, called an answer. Failure to file your request in a timely manner results in the waiving of your right to transfer the venue, meaning your case remains in the current county.