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Common Questions Regarding Florida Child Custody Jurisdiction

In our practice we get a fair number of questions regarding child custody. Often the answers to these questions differ from person to person based on the specific circumstances of each case. Yet there are some general questions regarding jurisdiction, the answers to which are similar enough that we thought it would be helpful to answer them here.

Where do I file my child custody case?

You should file your child custody case at the designated court for the county you live in. For Boca Raton, this would be the Palm Beach County Courthouse.

My spouse moved out of state. Can I still file at the local courthouse?

Yes. The state where the child lives – the child’s “home state” – is the state that has jurisdiction to decide child custody and child support matters.

I just moved to Florida with my child from [State]. My spouse still lives in [State]. Can I file a child custody action here?

Unless your spouse agrees, the answer is no. Although normally the child’s home state has jurisdiction to decide child custody matters, there are exceptions. Florida must have been the child’s home state for the six months preceding the date the action was filed. So if you moved to Florida on February 1, Florida would not be considered the child’s home state for jurisdictional purposes until August 1 of that year. This is to prevent forum shopping, which is when a parent moves to a different jurisdiction in the hopes of getting a better outcome or to make it more difficult for the other parent to participate in the child custody proceedings.

My spouse moved to [State] with our child and filed a child custody case. I did not consent to the move or the filing. Can I file my own case in Boca Raton?

Yes. Florida retains jurisdiction over a child that no longer lives in the state if Florida was the home state of the child during the six month period prior to the filing of the child custody action and if one of the child’s parents continues to live in Florida.

My spouse and I have a child custody agreement in [State]. My child and I have lived in Florida for a year. I need to modify the custody agreement. Can I file a modification in Florida?

Maybe. If the other parent consents to the post-judgment modification, Florida court can obtain jurisdiction. If the other parent no longer lives in the state where the initial child custody order was entered, then Florida could take jurisdiction as the child’s home state, and because neither party has ties to the original state.

If, however, the other parent still lives in [State], you will have to prove to the court of initial jurisdiction that it should relinquish jurisdiction to Florida due to [State] being an inconvenient forum. Whether the initial court will relinquish jurisdiction (or, if the child no longer lives in Florida, whether the Florida court will relinquish jurisdiction) due to inconvenient forum depends on a weighing of several factors, including the distance between courts, the financial circumstances of each party, the length of time the child has resided in the new state, and where evidence necessary to decide the issues is located.

Boca Raton Child Custody Attorneys

Although usually straightforward, in today’s transient society issues of which court has jurisdiction to decide a child custody or child support issue can become tricky. If you and your child have recently relocated to Florida, and you’re unsure of whether you can file your initial or post-judgment case in the state, the Boca Raton child custody attorneys at Schwartz l White can help. Our attorneys have more than 50 years’ combined experience handling jurisdictional issues in child custody and child support cases, including successfully transferring jurisdiction to Florida. Call us today at 561-391-9943 and let us help you determine the appropriate jurisdiction to file your case.

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