Florida Court Discusses Determining a Child’s Home State in Custody Matters

When a parent wants to clarify their custodial rights, they typically institute a custody action in the county where they and any parties affected by the action live. However, in some cases, co-parents may not be able to arrive at an agreement as to what county or state a child calls home. When such disputes arise in the Florida courts, they will generally consider a wide range of elements to decide where the child’s home is located and whether it has jurisdiction to preside over a custody dispute involving the child. In a recent Florida matter where the mother and father each filed a custody action in a different state, the court detailed what it weighs when considering whether a child is a Florida. If you are involved in a custody battle, you should consult with a Florida child custody attorney to determine your options for seeking a just outcome.

History of the Case

The mother and father reportedly spent several years in Florida with the father’s family. The couple relocated to New Jersey after the child was conceived to seek the treatment of a certain doctor. The infant was born in New York, after which the family returned to Florida. They expected to visit only for a few days, but ended up staying with the paternal grandparents for over six months. During that time, the mother visited New Jersey on several occasions to take care of her business.

The mother allegedly went to New Jersey with the child when their relationship apparently worsened. She then obtained an injunction to protect herself from domestic violence, and the father launched a paternity suit in Florida a week later. The mother filed a custody suit in New Jersey the next day, saying that under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, New Jersey had jurisdiction over the child (UCCJEA). The motion was dismissed by the trial court after a hearing. The mother then filed an appeal.

Determining a Child’s Place of Residence in Custody Matters

On review, the appellate court explained that the UCCJEA, which all states except Massachusetts have adopted, determines if a court may exercise jurisdiction over an interstate custody dispute. The UCCJEA’s initial child custody clause, which is codified in Florida Statutes, gives a child’s home state authority over initial custody issues.

Under the UCCJEA, a home state is defined as the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six months immediately prior to the start of the custody dispute. The court found that the child had lived in Florida for more than six months before the custody action was filed in the matter at hand. As a result, the appellate court decided that it was his home state for the purposes of the initial custody determination, and the mother’s appeal was dismissed.

Speak with an Experienced Florida Lawyer

Co-parents do not necessarily live in the same state, and they may disagree on which state should handle any custody disputes. If you need assistance with a custody matter, it is critical to retain an attorney who will advocate zealously on your behalf. The experienced Florida lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. are mindful of the importance of obtaining favorable outcomes in custody matters, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us through our form online or by calling 800-283-7442 to set up a meeting.





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