Dealing with Modifications to Child Custody When Both Parents Have Moved Out of Florida
Modifying a child custody order following a divorce can get quite complicated, especially if the parents are now living in different states. It is not uncommon for disputes to arise not only over the proposed modification, but also what state is the proper forum to resolve the matter. Keep in mind, just because you move away from Florida, that does not mean a custody order issued by a Florida court no longer applies to your family situation.
Connecticut Court Must Decide If Florida Retains Jurisdiction Over Custody Dispute
A recent decision from a Connecticut appellate court helps to illustrate this principle. This case, Parisi v. Niblett, involves two parents who obtained a divorce from a Florida circuit court in 2016. The final divorce judgment included a child custody order, which incorporated a previously agreed upon parenting plan regarding custody arrangements for the couple’s minor child.
The parenting plan specified each parent would have 50 percent parenting time until the child reached school age. Once the child entered kindergarten, the parents agreed that the court “will revisit the issue of time sharing.” But in April 2017, the father filed a petition to modify custody in the Florida court. He noted that prior to the final entry of the divorce judgment, the mother had moved to Alabama. The father therefore sought to be designated as the “major time sharing parent.” The father later dismissed that petition, only to return to court in August 2018, alleging the mother had failed to honor the existing time sharing schedule.
At this point, neither the father nor the mother lived in Florida. The father had moved to Connecticut in October 2017. He subsequently filed a second petition to modify the child custody order with a Connecticut court, even though his Florida case remained pending. Apparently, the father and mother each tried to enroll their child in a kindergarten in their home state.
In December 2018, the Florida and Connecticut courts conferred with one another on how to proceed. The Florida judge noted they no longer had jurisdiction over this dispute, as both parents had moved out of Florida without the Court’s permission. The Florida court thought this dispute should be heard in Alabama, since that is where the child now actually resided. The Connecticut judge, meanwhile, noted that she “only had allegations, and no affidavits regarding the child’s residence following the divorce.” And since Florida had not officially “given up” jurisdiction, the Connecticut judge decided she lacked jurisdiction and declined to hear the father’s petition for modification.
The father appealed that decision, and the Appellate Court of Connecticut agreed the trial judge was required to conduct a full evidentiary hearing before deciding she lacked jurisdiction. Both Florida and Connecticut follow a uniform rule known as the UCCJEA when it comes to resolving custody disputes. Under the UCCJEA, Florida retains continuing jurisdiction until a court–in Florida or another state–determines the child and their parent no longer lives in Florida. In other words, a Connecticut court has the legal authority to decide a child no longer lives in Florida and is thus no longer under that state’s jurisdiction. The Connecticut judge did not have to wait until the Florida court chose to “relinquish” jurisdiction before proceeding with the father’s case.
Speak with a Florida Child Custody Modification Lawyer Today
If all of this sounds unnecessarily complicated, then let this case serve as a cautionary tale. When it comes to child custody, it is always in the best interests of the child for the parents to be on the same side. Indeed, parents should always strive to resolve any issues regarding the modification of custody arrangements before multi-state litigation becomes necessary.