A Russian mother’s effort to pursue an award of child support hit a snag when a Florida appeals court concluded that a Russian court should hear her claim. The Russian courts already had jurisdiction over issues of custody, visitation and time-sharing regarding the child, making them a more convenient forum for the hearing of the child support issue. In a recent case, the court determined that, while courts will generally favor the forum choice of the filing party in cases involving domestic parents, this rule does not apply if the parent filing the case is not a resident of the United States.
The case regarded the child that a couple had together in Russia 17 years ago. In 2012, the mother launched an action in Florida to assess paternity and receive an award of child support. The father sought to dismiss the case on the grounds of forum non conveniens, arguing that because the mother was a resident of Russia with few to no ties to Florida, a Russian court would be better positioned to hear the case. Forum non conveniens is a legal doctrine allowing a court to dismiss a case if, in the court’s discretion, another court could more conveniently try the case. The trial court denied the motion.
The court of appeals sided with the father. In general, the court explained, the person who files the action (the mother in this case) is entitled to a presumption in favor of the court she chose. This presumption does not exist, though, if the person filing the action is from another country. Even if Florida was an inconvenient forum to hear the mother’s child support claim, the case would have stayed here if no other court constituted an adequate alternative. The court of appeals, however, concluded that the Russian courts were such a viable alternative. The court noted that the Russian courts already had jurisdiction over the custody, visitation and time-sharing regarding the child.
The court’s decision to relinquish the case to Russia was conditional, though. The court ordered the father to show proof to the trial court that the Russian courts had accepted jurisdiction in the matter, otherwise it would proceed in Florida.
Rules regarding forum non conveniens, including this one, are very important for Florida parents, given that many have arrived here from other places, whether another state or another country. In this case, had the mother been from New Jersey instead of Russia, it is very possible she could have proceeded here. For foreign plaintiffs, however, Florida has followed the federal standard for forum non conveniens since the Supreme Court’s 1996 ruling in Kinney System, Inc. v. Continental Ins. Co., which erects a higher hurdle for those plaintiffs to maintain their cases here.
Understanding these rules of jurisdiction, forum and venue are very important in order to ensure you do not waste valuable time and money in the pursuit of your child support or other family law matter, and highlights the importance of working with experienced family law attorneys. To ensure you are pursuing your rights in the wisest and most efficient manner, consult the South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. They have helped many Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade families to work out their child support, custody and time-sharing issues, and can provide smart, effective litigation advocacy when needed.
Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
The Legal Battle for the Miccosukee children in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 9, 2013
Couple Kidnapped Own Children, Fled to Cuba, Returned to Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 18, 2013