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Does Fort Lauderdale, Florida Have Jurisdiction to Resolve Your Divorce and Custody Case? (Part 2)

During my last post, I began to discuss if a divorce or custody court in Florida had jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enfrocement Act (“UCCJEA”) to make an initial child custody determination. This blog post is a continuation of the case of Karam v. Karam from the Third District Court of Appeal.

On December 6, 2007, the Guadeloupe court entered an order finding that the children’s residence was determined to be the Husband’s residence and that they were to return to Guadeloupe to reside with the Husband. The Guadeloupe court specifically found that the “usual and permanent centre of the minor children’s interest” was and always had been in France, their stay in Florida (for over two years with the Wife) was “purely linguistic and cultural enrichment,”, and that the petition was filed in the French court before one was filed by the Wife in the American Court.

The Florida court dismissed the custody portion of the Wife’s petition for dissolution of marriage. The Florida court found that the facts and arguments presented were the same facts and arguments presented to the French appellate court which had affirmed the order of the French court, the Wife should not be permitted to re-litigate the custody issue in Florida, under the UCCJEA the French court’s order constitute the initial custody determination, the French courts exercised jurisdiction in substantial conformity with the UCCJEA, the French court’s determinations were made meeting the jurisdictional standards of the UCCJEA and that the Wife failed to demonstrate that the parties stay in Florida was anything other than temporary.

The Third District Court of Appeal granted the Wife’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari and quashed the Florida court’s order. The Court found that the French court did not exercise its jurisdiction in substantial conformity with the UCCJEA because the UCCJEA focuses on where the children were living prior to the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage. Under the UCCJEA, jurisdiction is based upon the “home state” of the minor children which is defined as were the children were residing for at least six months prior to the filing of the petition. The Third District Court of Appeal reasoned that the French court’s ruling focused on the children’s “usual and permanent centre of interest.” The Third District Court of Appeal stated that these two standards are not synonymous. In holding that the French court did not exercise its jurisdiction in substantial conformity with the UCCJEA, and contrary to the Florida court’s conclusion, the Florida trial court could have, and should have, exercised its jurisdiction over the child custody portion of the Wife’s petition for dissolution of marriage.