Florida Court Discusses Due Process in Custody Disputes

When people in romantic relationships decide to part, they will typically go their separate ways. If they have a child together, though, they may have to seek intervention from the courts to determine their parental rights and obligations. In any custody matter, the Florida courts must rule in the best interest of the child. In doing so, however, they must uphold the parties’ right to due process, as explained in a recent Florida custody action. If you have questions about what steps you can take to safeguard your relationship with your child, it is wise to contact a Miami child custody attorney as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is reported that the parties began their relationship in August 2019 and had a child in June 2021. Following the child’s birth, the mother returned to Miami, and the relationship between the parties ended. The father initiated a paternity action, seeking a 50-50 timesharing arrangement. During the hearing on the motion for temporary relief, the trial court introduced the concept of a two-week rotating schedule, which was not previously raised in the pleadings.

Allegedly, the court considered this schedule despite objections from the mother and her counsel, who requested time to discuss the alternative and present witnesses. Nevertheless, the trial court ordered the two-week rotating schedule based on its determination of the child’s best interests. The mother appealed.

Due Process in Custody Disputes

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court’s order on two grounds. First, it found that the trial court violated the mother’s right to due process by introducing and deciding on a two-week rotating schedule without prior notice, thus denying her an opportunity to prepare arguments or present witnesses regarding its potential impact on the child. The court cited case law emphasizing that due process rights are infringed when parties are not given notice or an opportunity to be heard on a particular matter.

Second, the court determined that there was no competent, substantial evidence supporting the trial court’s finding that the two-week rotating schedule was in the child’s best interests. Comparing it to the mother’s proposed weekly rotation plan, the court notes that both involved a similar amount of travel for the child, with the two-week rotation causing a continuous two-week separation each month.

In sum, the court questioned the trial court’s decision, highlighting that the trial court failed to consider the child’s developmental needs and the demonstrated capacity of each parent to meet those needs. Consequently, the court reversed the trial court’s order and remanded the case for further proceedings in line with its opinion.

Talk to a Dedicated Miami Attorney

In any child custody case in Florida, the court’s primary concern should be what is in the best interest of the child, but the courts typically must provide parties an opportunity to present their cases before making a determination regarding custody. If you need assistance with a custody matter, it is prudent to talk to an attorney. The dedicated Miami family law lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can take the measures necessary to seek the best outcome for you and your child. You can contact us via our online form or at 800-596-0579 to arrange a conference.