Florida Court Explains Jurisdiction in Family Law Cases

It is critical to litigate a family law issue in the proper jurisdiction in order to preserve the rights of all parties concerned. When a couple has lived in more than one jurisdiction during the course of their marriage, the question of which state or country has the authority to decide over the divorce proceedings might lead to contentious disagreements. In a case where divorce proceedings were filed in both Spain and Florida, a Florida court recently reviewed the process of assessing what court has jurisdiction over a divorce action. If you wish to seek a divorce, you should consult with an experienced Florida family law attorney to assess what actions you should take to protect your rights.

History of the Case

Allegedly, the husband and wife, both Spanish citizens, married in Spain in 2008. They moved to Southern Florida after having two children. They were subsequently accused of criminal activity in Luxembourg, after which the husband pressured the wife to sign an agreement. The wife refused and then fled with the children to Florida, prompting the husband to submit an emergency petition for the children’s return as well as a divorce petition.

It is reported that the husband subsequently filed a second divorce petition in Spain. Following his dismissal of the Florida case, the wife filed her own divorce petition in Florida. The husband then served the wife with the Spanish divorce petition and moved to dismiss the Florida case. The court ultimately concluded that Spain had jurisdiction over the matter and granted the husband’s motion. The wife appealed.

Identifying Which Court Has Jurisdiction

In Florida, when numerous courts have concurrent jurisdiction over the matter, the court that exercises jurisdiction first obtains the sole right to proceed with the case, which is referred to as the principle of priority. While it does not apply as a matter of duty when dealing with different countries, it is employed as a matter of courtesy. As a result, if another court is hearing a case involving the same issues and parties, a Florida court may order a stay of proceedings before it.

While Florida held jurisdiction over the case at the outset, the court noted that when the husband dismissed his petition, Florida lost its right to claim exclusive jurisdiction. While trial courts will usually suspend proceedings when a prior action concerning the identical topic has been brought in another court, they are not always required to do so. In other words, the court will retain jurisdiction if there are extraordinary circumstances that support a denial of the stay. Such conditions are common in divorce cases like the one at hand, when the parties’ residences, business interests, and children are all located in Florida. Based on the foregoing, the appellate court overturned the lower court’s decision.

Speak with a Knowledgeable Miami Divorce Attorney

Property division, alimony, and custody procedures differ widely from one jurisdiction to the next, so it’s vital for persons seeking a divorce to choose the right court to handle their case in order to preserve their rights. If you wish to end your marriage, the knowledgeable Miami family law attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A., can evaluate your options and help you take the steps necessary to provide you with a strong chance of a good result. Our office is in Aventura, and we regularly help parties with divorce matters in Miami. You can reach us via our form online or at 800-596-0579 to set up a meeting.


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