Florida Court Declines to Order Parents to Share Travel Costs in an International Custody Case

It is not uncommon for people who live and work in Florida to maintain citizenship in the United States and other countries. This can present challenges when it comes to co-parenting and custody disputes, however, as dual citizens often wish to move back to their native country while maintaining their rights to custody and visitation. As demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling, while parents have the right to make such requests, they should not expect their co-parents to share the significant costs associated with sharing custody internationally. If you have questions about your parental rights and obligations with regard to custody, it is in your best interest to speak to a trusted Miami child custody lawyer as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the mother and father met in 2016 and had a child together in 2017. The father lived and worked in the United States but was a dual citizen of Belgium and the United States. The parties lived together initially, but the mother and child moved out eventually. The father did not maintain a relationship with the child until 2019. He lost his job in 2020 due to the pandemic and moved back to Belgium.

Reportedly, the father only returned to the United States once in 2021 so that he could visit the child. At that time, he filed a petition to establish visitation and child support. The father sought to have the child visit him in Belgium twice a year, but the mother argued that neither she nor the father could afford the cost of the travel. She requested child support as well. The trial court held a hearing but did not make any findings. It then sought proposed final judgments from both parties and adopted the father’s judgment, which among other things, ordered the mother to pay half of the cost of transporting the child to Belgium and granted the mother $148 per month in child support. The mother appealed.

Orders Defining International Custody

The trial court’s judgment was reversed on appeal. The court explained that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering the mother to pay half of the significant costs associated with allowing the father to exercise his time-sharing rights in Belgium without first determining whether either party had the ability to pay such fees. Instead, the court merely adopted the father’s proposed judgment verbatim.

Further, the court found that the trial court erred in making its child support determinations by neglecting to attach child support guideline worksheets to the final judgment. Finally, the court noted that the father conceded that numerous other findings in the trial court’s judgment were not supported by the evidence of record. Thus, the judgment was reversed.

Meet with a Dedicated Miami Attorney

Sharing custody of a child with someone who lives in another country can be complicated and costly. If you have questions regarding child custody, you should talk to a lawyer. The dedicated Miami attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are adept at helping parents protect their rights in custody matters, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. Our office is in Aventura, and we frequently represent people in custody cases in Miami. You can reach us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a meeting.