Does Florida have jurisdiction over my child support case?

In order to prevent jurisdictional disputes with courts in other states on matters relating to child support and time sharing, Florida has enacted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Pursuant to the UCCJEA, the exercise of jurisdiction in making an initial custody determination lies with the child’s home state. “Home state” is the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a proceeding involving a child.

Many jurisdictional disputes arise when one parent decides to remove the child from Florida and move to another state with the child. Then, either one or both parents will file a petition seeking establishment of timesharing and child support in their respective states. In this instance, the courts will have to decide whether Florida or the other state has jurisdiction to preside over the case.

In the recent case of Barnes v. Barnes, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2255 (Fla. 4Th DCA 2013), the mother and father moved with their children to Florida in October 2010. On August 24, 2011, the mother and the children moved to Colorado. On December 8, 2011, the father filed a petition in Florida for a parenting plan, child support, and timesharing. The Mother also filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in Colorado.

In Barnes, the issue was whether Florida or Colorado was the home state. The trial court declined to exercise jurisdiction because it determined that Colorado was the home state. In overturning the trial court’s decision, the 4th DCA relied on a previous case decided by the 2nd DCA, M.A.C. v. M.D.H., 88 So. 3D 1050 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012). In M.A.C., the court looked at the time period between six months prior to the filing of the petition and the date of the filing of the petition to determine if Florida qualified as the home state at any time in between.

In Barnes, because the Father filed his petition on December 8, 2011, the court looked at the time period of June 8, 2011 and December 8, 2011 to determine if Florida qualified as the home state at any time in between. The court found that as of June 8, 2011 the children had been living in Florida for eight months. Therefore, the court held that Florida was the home state.

Jurisdictional disputes can be complex. If a case is improperly filed, it may lead to additional time and expense. It is important to contact an attorney before you file your case to determine if Florida has jurisdiction. You may always contact Martin Law Firm for a consultation.

For more information, see Barnes v. Barnes, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2255 (Fla. 4Th DCA 2013). Liridona Sinani is an Attorney with Martin Law Firm, P.L. who practices Family Law and Civil Litigation. She is admitted to practice law in the State of Florida and the Federal Court for the Middle District of Florida. She primarily practices in Lee County and Collier County Florida in Cape Coral, Fort Myers, and Naples, Florida.