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Florida Court Discusses Determining a Child’s Residence in Custody Matters

Generally, when a parent wishes to define custody rights, they will file a custody lawsuit in the jurisdiction in which they, their child, and their co-parent reside. In some instances, however, co-parents may not agree as to which county or state is considered the child’s place of residence. In such instances, the Florida courts will typically analyze numerous factors to determine where the child’s home exists and if it can exercise jurisdiction over a custody dispute pertaining to the child. For example, in a recent Florida opinion, a court explained what it considers when evaluating whether a child is a Florida resident, in a case in which the mother and father filed custody disputes in New Jersey and Florida, respectively. If you are engaged in a dispute over custody, it is advisable to contact a Florida child custody lawyer to assess your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the mother and the father lived with the father’s parents in Florida for many years. Once the child was conceived, the parents moved to New Jersey to obtain the care of a specific obstetrician. The mother gave birth to the child in New York, after which the parents and child went back to Florida. They initially intended just to vacation there but ended up living with the paternal grandparents again for over six months. The mother returned to New Jersey on numerous occasions during that time to tend to her business.

Allegedly, the parties’ relationship deteriorated, and the mother returned to New Jersey with the child. She then sought an injunction for protection against domestic violence, and one week later, the father filed a paternity action in Florida. The following day, the mother filed a custody action in New Jersey and moved to dismiss the Florida paternity case, arguing New Jersey had jurisdiction over the child under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The trial court conducted a hearing, after which it denied the motion. The mother then appealed.

Determining a Child’s Residence in Custody Matters

On appeal, the appellate court explained that whether a court can exercise jurisdiction over an interstate custody dispute is governed by the UCCJEA, which all states, save Massachusetts, have adopted. Under the initial child custody provision of the UCCJEA, which is set forth in the Florida Statutes, a child’s home state has the jurisdiction to determine initial custody matters.

In turn, a home state is defined as the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for a minimum of six consecutive months immediately preceding the commencement of the custody case. In the subject case, the court found that the child lived in Florida for over six months before the custody action was filed. As such, the appellate court found that it was his home state for purposes of the initial custody determination and denied the mother’s appeal.

Speak to a Capable Miami Attorney

People who have co-parents do not always live in the same state, and in many cases, they may not agree as to which state is the proper forum to handle any custody disputes. If you need help with a custody issue, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney. The capable Miami family law attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A., are mindful of the importance of protecting parental rights, and if you hire us, we will fight tirelessly to help you seek a successful result. Our office is located in Aventura, and we regularly represent people in child custody matters in Miami. You can contact us through our form online or at 800-596-0579 to set up a conference.

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