FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
pursuant to Fla. R. App. P. 9.130 from the Circuit Court for
Hillsborough County; Jared E. Smith, Judge.
William S. Graessle and Jonathan W. Graessle of William S.
Graessle, P.A., Jacksonville, for Appellant.
M. Sabbagh and Gregory D. Jones of Rywant, Alvarez, Jones,
Russo & Guyton, P.A., Tampa, for Appellee.
Jean Johnson appeals a nonfinal order granting her ex-husband
Joseph Brendan Johnson's motion to transfer venue from
Hillsborough County to Pasco County. Specifically, the order
transferred Ms. Johnson's January 2019 petition for
protection against domestic violence on behalf of the
couple's minor son. We have jurisdiction, see
Fla. R. App. P. 9.130(a)(3)(A) (permitting appeals from
nonfinal orders "concern[ing] venue"), and we
the dissolution of their marriage in 2016, the couple remains
in a fraught and contentious relationship. We need not detail
their legal history; suffice it to say that all their prior
proceedings (dissolution, emergency motions and petitions,
and modifications) have been heard in Pasco County. We also
note that Ms. Johnson filed the January 2019 petition in
Hillsborough County three days after a Pasco County trial
court denied her December 2018 petition for injunction
against domestic violence. In doing so, that trial court
found that Ms. Johnson was not credible and was using the
litigation as a weapon against her ex-husband.
response to the January 2019 petition,  Mr. Johnson filed
an unsworn "Motion for change of venue," seeking to
transfer the case to Pasco County. Mr. Johnson recited that
[a]lthough . . . the [January 2019 petition] could have been
filed in both Hillsborough and Pasco Counties, the matter
should be transferred to Pasco County as it is not only the
most convenient forum, not just for the witnesses and the
parties involved, but also the most appropriate forum in
regards to the interests of justice and judicial economy.
See § 741.30(1)(k), Fla. Stat. (2018)
("Notwithstanding any provision of chapter 47, a
petition for an injunction for protection against domestic
violence may be filed in the circuit where the petitioner
currently or temporarily resides, where the respondent
resides, or where the domestic violence occurred. There is no
minimum requirement of residency to petition for an
injunction for protection."); see also §
47.011, Fla. Stat. (2018) ("Actions shall be brought
only in the county where the defendant resides, where the
cause of action accrued, or where the property in litigation
hearing on the transfer motion,  the trial court heard
argument from counsel; the parties offered no testimony. Mr.
Johnson stressed that "everything is still in Pasco
County." Ms. Johnson countered that the parties live in
Hillsborough County. Interestingly, though, when Ms. Johnson
filed the December 2018 petition in Pasco County, both
parties were living in Hillsborough County. She also
contended that the therapists who would testify at the
injunction hearing have offices in Hillsborough, and
"[t]he majority of the acts alleged in this petition
also occurred in Hillsborough."
conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found that the
"interest of justice" required the transfer of the
case to Pasco County because all of the parties' prior
and existing family law cases had been litigated or remained
to be litigated there:
[H]owever we slice it, the case is in Pasco County. . . .
You've got the dissolution action there, timesharing is
there, knowledge base is there, case history is there. I
don't have any of that benefit. And it sounds like
there's even motions for ...