Interstate Custody – Understanding UCCJEA in Florida
Imagine this: your ex plans to relocate to another state or already has. At first glance, you might not have any alarm bells ringing. But, what do you do regarding custody? Do you have to fly to a new state for each and every custody hearing? Where does that leave your custody case?
If you are separating from your spouse and unsure which state court will have jurisdiction over your case, having an experienced divorce attorney by your side can be a lifesaver. Johnny Bardine of The Bardine Law Firm is committed to helping you feel confident in your choices when leaving a marriage. If custody hearings are in your future, contact our team today at (727) 605-7078 or through our website to ensure you fully understand the process as it unfolds.
What Florida Parents Should Know About The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
The primary objective of the UCCJEA in Florida is to establish clear guidelines for jurisdiction in child custody cases, avoiding conflicts between courts and states in different parts of the country. The ‘Home State’ rule stipulates that the child’s home state usually holds primary jurisdiction. However, the home state isn’t just something that you can write in a form based on your own opinion. In most cases, the home state defaults to wherever the child has primarily lived for the past six months. In cases involving infants less than six months old, the home state is where the child has lived since birth.
In addition to the home state rule, Florida courts may also assume jurisdiction in several other scenarios:
- No Other Home State: Florida courts can claim jurisdiction if no other state qualifies as the child’s home state, or if another state has declined jurisdiction on the grounds that Florida is a more appropriate forum.
- Significant Connections To Florida: Even if Florida is not the home state, it may assume jurisdiction if the child and at least one parent have significant connections to Florida, such as attending school or having family ties deeply rooted in the state.
- Emergency Jurisdiction: In cases where the child is present in Florida and there are concerns for the child’s safety or well-being, Florida courts may exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction.
- Jurisdictional Vacuum: Florida may step in to fill the jurisdictional vacuum if no other state can rightfully claim jurisdiction.
- Unjustifiable Conduct: If the jurisdiction in another state is a result of unjustifiable conduct, such as abduction or threats, Florida may assert jurisdiction.
Challenges and Complexities in Child Custody Jurisdiction
Disputes over the ‘home state’ arise when parents have differing views on where the child has primarily resided. This is particularly challenging in cases where families have moved frequently or when the child spends considerable time in multiple states. Determining the home state requires careful examination of the child’s recent living arrangements and the duration of these stays, which can be a subject of intense debate and opinion.
Another significant challenge is establishing what constitutes a ‘significant connection’ with Florida. While a child or parent may claim a greater connection to one state, the facts on the ground may differ, and courts will look at all this evidence to decide which state is considered home.
When challenging jurisdiction in a child custody case, the following steps should be considered:
- Document Residence History: Compile a detailed history of the child’s residence, including the length of stay in each state, to challenge the current ‘home state’ status.
- Gather Evidence of Significant Connections: Collect evidence of the child’s significant connections to other states, such as school records, medical records, and testimonies from community members.
- File a Legal Challenge: Officially file a jurisdictional challenge in court, presenting the collected evidence to contest the claim of jurisdiction.
- Cooperate with Interstate Communication: Engage in open communication with courts of other involved states to establish the most appropriate jurisdiction for the case.
Under what circumstances can Florida modify an existing child custody or support order? Florida can modify an existing child custody or support order if a substantial change in circumstances affects the child’s welfare. This can include changes in parental income, relocation, changes in the child’s needs, or any other significant life changes that impact the child’s well-being.
What happens if both parents move out of Florida after a custody order is in place? If both parents and the child move out of Florida, the state typically loses its jurisdiction to modify the custody order. In such cases, the jurisdiction typically shifts to the child’s new home state, where the parents can seek modifications to the custody arrangements.
Contact A Florida Divorce Attorney Today
Divorce and custody proceedings are complicated enough. If there is confusion or contention over which state has jurisdiction, the issue quickly rises to a level where experienced legal representation is necessary. Johnny Bardine of The Bardine Law Firm can help you through whatever custody issues you face. Reach out today at (727) 605-7078 or through our website to learn more.