Many families with children – even those where divorce is involved – may go through the children’s entire formative years with everyone living in one state. For a lot of other families, though, that’s not the case. When you’re in that latter group, any legal disputes regarding parental responsibility and timesharing can become profoundly more complicated and may possibly force you to have to litigate in some far-away state. Having a skilled South Florida family law attorney by your side can provide you with immense benefit when it comes to seeking to avoid such a disadvantageous situation.
The story of an ended marriage with children and a post-separation family spread across two states hit the news recently. Devoted fans of the Real Housewives of New York reality TV show will undoubtedly recognize the name “Jules Wainstein” as one of the cast members during Season 8. People following celebrity “gossip” news will also recognize Jules Wainstein as a new divorcee. People.com reported that she and her husband, Michael, who share two children and who separated in 2016, received their final judgment of divorce this fall. Although Wainstein and her husband resided in Manhattan, she told BravoTV that she and the kids “temporarily” relocated here to South Florida, living with her parents in Boca Raton.
The mother’s comments to Bravo seem to indicate a clear intent to return to the Big Apple but, certainly, Wainstein wouldn’t be the first New Yorker who “temporarily” moved to South Florida and ultimately decided to stay. If the mother and children were to remain in Florida, any child custody issues that they would have to litigate in the future would implicate a statute known as the “Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act,” or UCCJEA.
The UCCJEA is a law that, as the name implies, dictates which state (or even country)’s courts will have jurisdiction to decide any litigated issues between the parents regarding child custody. Determining in advance whether a particular location’s courts have jurisdiction is very important. If you file in a place that doesn’t have jurisdiction, your case can be dismissed or, even if you get an order in your favor, that order can be thrown out as legally unenforceable.
So, how does the UCCJEA process work?
One of the first, and most important, things that will occur is the determination of the child’s “home state” under UCCJEA law. The UCCJEA says that, if your children resided with you in a particular place for at least six months before you filed your custody case, then the state where you and the kids live generally qualifies as the “home state” under UCCJEA.
There is an exception, though. That exception applies to children who, like the Wainstein children, are living in state — even more than six months — on an explicitly temporary basis.
For example, back in 2011, the Fourth District Court of Appeal, whose rulings directly impact the South Florida counties of Broward and Palm Beach, ruled that Florida could be the UCCJEA “home state” of two children who had lived in Turkey for the preceding eight months. The father provided proof that the family had been in Turkey for eight months, not as an intended permanent relocation but an expressly temporary “extended vacation,” and that Florida had been their home state before traveling to Turkey. That, according to the appeals court, was enough to give Florida jurisdiction.
In the Wainstein family, if custody litigation were to arise, this concept would probably lean toward New York being declared the home state, as the Florida move was intentionally temporary.
Your relationship with your children is too important to leave anything to chance. To make sure you are doing everything you can to protect that most valuable relationship when a child custody dispute arises, rely on the skilled South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A., for the advice and advocacy you need. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation today.