Child custody cases are often complex and wrought with emotion. When you’re dealing with two sets of state laws, this can compound the situation. Where to file is a question that comes up often. Here’s what you should know about how Florida handles family law cases involving children, including interstate custody issues, and where/how to get legal help.
Establishing the Child’s Home State
Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), the home state of the child must be determined, since two states cannot share jurisdiction. The home state is the one that will make all pertinent decisions regarding the case, including physical and legal custody, visitation, child support, and more. Florida courts will review:
Rule #1 — 6 Months
Most often, a court will rule that the state that has jurisdiction over the case is the one in which the child has lived for the prior six months. This is the main rule of thumb. If the child is not yet six months old, the state in which the child was born is usually the home state. If a child has moved and has been living in another state for less than six months, the previous state may be able to retain jurisdiction.
Rule #2 — Significant Connection and Evidence
In cases where a court believes that a child may be in danger within their state and wishes to assume jurisdiction over the case, they may be able to use the significant connection and evidence rule. If the state has enough evidence to suggest that the child’s welfare is at risk and the child has significant connections within the state (i.e. has resides there, but maybe not for six months yet), they may be able to take over the case. However, both criteria must be met.
Rule #3 — Emergency Jurisdiction
In cases of child abuse or domestic violence, any state can assume emergency jurisdiction over the case and issue orders to protect the safety and wellbeing of the child as though they were the home state. Even if the home state has already been established, another state can take jurisdiction in an emergency.
For example, Florida can assume jurisdiction in an Alabama custody case if the child’s parent makes a report of domestic violence in the state of Florida. The state must have reasonable suspicion that the child’s welfare is at risk to exercise emergency jurisdiction.
When to Call a Florida Family Lawyer
If you’re dealing with interstate child custody as a divorcee or unmarried parent, it’s critical that you get legal help as soon as possible. Naples family and divorce lawyer Kevyn Noonan Hayes, P.A. will work hard to keep jurisdiction in your custody case with Florida courts, or whichever state is in the best interests of the child. Contact Attorney Hayes now for a consultation at 239-591-6248.