Florida Court Discusses Tortious Interference With Custodial Rights

Florida custody disputes can become contentious, and it is not uncommon for one parent to accuse the other of trying to alienate them from their child. In some instances, a parent may go so far as to accuse a co-parent of tortious interference with custodial rights. While Florida law allows for such actions, they can be challenging to prove, as demonstrated in a recent Florida custody case. If you are dealing with a custody disagreement, it is advisable to meet with a Miami child custody attorney promptly to determine your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the father brought tort claims against the mother and the stepfather. Specifically, he alleged intentional interference with custodial rights as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress claims (IIED) against both the mother and the stepfather regarding their then-teenage daughter. The focus of the allegations against the stepfather involved his purported conspiracy with the mother in preventing the daughter’s return to Canada, where the father resided, against the daughter’s wishes to remain in Florida.

It is alleged that the stepfather’s involvement encompassed actions such as allowing the daughter to reside in his home, facilitating her enrollment in a Florida high school, and supporting her pursuit of emancipation from the father. The mother and stepfather moved for dismissal of the father’s claims via summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion, prompting the father to appeal.

Tortious Interference With Custodial Rights

Upon review, the court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the mother without further comment. Regarding the stepfather, the court applied a de novo standard of review for summary judgment. Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510(a) dictates that the focus is on whether the evidence supports a reasonable jury verdict for the nonmoving party.

The court explained that while Florida law recognizes a cause of action for tortious interference with custodial rights, it’s typically applicable when a third party interferes with a parent-child relationship. In cases involving interference by a co-parent, however, the court noted that family courts are better equipped to handle such matters promptly and effectively.

In this instance, the court found no evidence supporting the father’s claim against the stepfather for custodial interference. The stepfather’s actions, such as providing housing and transportation for the daughter, did not constitute intentional interference with the father’s custodial rights. Additionally, the court concluded that the stepfather’s conduct did not meet the threshold for IIED claims under Florida law. Specifically, he alleged actions, though described by the father as a conspiracy to kidnap, did not reach the level of outrageous behavior necessary for an IIED claim. Therefore, the court deemed the trial court’s decision to grant final summary judgment in favor of the appellees appropriate.

Confer with an Assertive Miami Attorney

Disagreements over parental rights can become heated, but in child custody cases, the court’s main focus is on what is in the child’s best interests rather than the parent’s wishes. If you need assistance with a child custody issue, it is advisable to confer with an attorney. The assertive Miami child custody lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can inform you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal outcome possible. You can reach us at 800-596-0579 or use the form online to arrange a conference.