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When Parents Divorce in Florida and Each Parent Moves to a Different State, Which Courts Have Jurisdiction?


As a legal term, “jurisdiction” means the geographic area or subject matter about which a court has the authority to make decisions.  Most of the time, the matter of which court has jurisdiction in a certain case is straightforward.  Family courts in Florida definitely have jurisdiction in a case where a person who got married and divorced in Florida wants to modify their alimony obligations.  They definitely don’t have the jurisdiction to decide whether a person accused of armed robbery in Pennsylvania is innocent or guilty; the jurisdiction in that case belongs to Pennsylvania and to the criminal courts.  Jurisdiction is not always so clear-cut in family law cases, though.  Most of the ambiguity relates to which courts have the jurisdiction to consider motions to modify parenting plans and child support orders when one of the parents moves out of Florida.  If your ex-spouse has moved out of Florida with your children, jurisdiction is just one of the many complexities you will have to deal with, but a South Florida child custody lawyer can help?

Details of the Taylor Case

Barry Taylor and Sarah McClintock married in Tennessee in 2004 and moved to Florida a few months later.  Their daughter was born in Florida in 2005.  They divorced in 2008, and their parenting plan made Sarah the primary residential parent, with the child spending every other weekend with Barry.  Since Barry was already planning to move back to Tennessee by the time the divorce became final, the parenting plan stipulated that if Barry moved out of Florida, he would get seven consecutive days of parenting time each month.

After Barry moved to Tennessee, the parties were unable to abide by the parenting plan.  Barry filed several motions for relief and even filed a motion to hold Sarah in contempt of court for blocking his attempts to exercise his parenting time.  In 2012, Sarah remarried and moved to Alabama.  In the court order issued to modify the parenting plan in light of Sarah’s move, the court ordered Barry to exercise 39 consecutive weeks of “make-up” parenting time that had accrued.  It ordered Sarah to withdraw the child’s enrollment from Florida schools and ordered Barry to enroll her in school in Tennessee.  Thus, Barry was to be the primary residential parent from early 2013 until the child started third grade in the fall of 2013.  The court did not specify how the parents would share time once the child started third grade.

Once the child was with him, Barry filed a motion in Tennessee to have the court name him the primary residential parent, but the Tennessee court ruled that the Florida courts had jurisdiction in the matter.  Barry appealed, and the appeals court ruled that the Tennessee court should decide, since the child had been residing in Tennessee for more than six months.

Contact Us Today for Help

Even if your child custody case involves court rulings from other states, a South Florida family lawyer will help you formalize a parenting plan that works for your family.  Contact the Boca Raton divorce lawyers at Schwartz | White for a consultation.




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