In any divorce or child custody case, one of the most important preliminary decisions that must be made is choosing where to file the action. If you attempt to bring your case in a court that does not have what’s called “jurisdiction,” you may face many possible negative outcomes, including not having your case heard (and having it thrown out instead) or having your successful outcome reversed on appeal. Either way, you won’t get the relief you need if the court doesn’t have jurisdiction. When the time comes to choose the right court to pursue your case, talk to a knowledgeable Florida child custody attorney who can help you make the right selection.
An example of how this process can go wrong played out recently in a Second District Court of Appeal case. Rahul, a commercial airline pilot, and a husband and father of three, filed for divorce in Collier County in southwest Florida. Whenever you file for divorce, you have to make certain declarations in your petition in order to establish that the court has jurisdiction. One of these is that you have lived here for at least six months, which would make you a Florida resident for the purposes of a divorce.
The husband made such a declaration in his case. The wife, in her response, “admitted” everything in the husband’s petition, meaning that she acknowledged as correct all of the points in the husband’s filing, including the item of residency. She also consented to the entry of a marital settlement agreement and parenting plan that the couple had previously worked out.
Seems like a straightforward case, right? In reality, it was not. The couple’s children had only lived in Florida for a period of two months back in the summer of 2014, and they had actually resided overseas for most of their lives. From August 2014 until the divorce filing, they had lived the entire time in the United Arab Emirates. Although he claimed he lived in Florida, most of the husband’s official papers in the divorce were notarized in the United Arab Emirates.
All of these facts came to light and became an issue after the wife moved the kids to New York and filed a custody action in a court on Long Island, seeking to move with the children to that state to be near her family. At that point, a jurisdiction fight ensued as to whether the custody case should proceed in Florida or New York. The wife argued that the evidence in the case made it clear that none of she, her children, or her husband ever established a residence in Florida.
One might question if the wife is even allowed to bring this argument. After all, she admitted in her answer to the divorce petition that the husband was a Florida resident and that the Florida courts had jurisdiction. The law says that, since children were involved, she was. In any child custody case, the court must have jurisdiction before it can properly enter an order, and it cannot obtain jurisdiction when jurisdiction would not otherwise exist solely based upon the “waiver, acquiescence, or agreement of the parties.” Based upon this legal concept, the mother was entitled to pursue her jurisdiction argument, so the appeals court sent the case back to the trial court for a hearing.
When you are contemplating pursuing a divorce or a child custody action, it is important to ensure that you are as prepared and as protected as you can be to safeguard yourself and your children. The skilled South Florida child custody attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are here to help your family as you navigate the legal system and your family law issues. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Miami Court Rules New York, Rather than Florida, Was the Proper Place to Resolve Custody Issues Between Fathers of Toddler Daughter, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 8, 2017
Jurisdiction Rules Prevent Father From Modifying Child Support in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 24, 2014