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Fort Myers Florida Family Law Legal Blog

Child custody law protects children from abuse across state lines

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2022 | Child Custody |

Whether prompted by affordability, the desire to remain close to extended family and friends, or a work-related development, the legal implications for those who reside in separate states and share custody of a child affect everyone. According to U.S. News & World Report, Fort Meyers ranks fourth among the fastest growing cities in the United States. The reason for the move most significantly affects how children relate to their parents.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act

A court case illustrates how the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) works across state lines to work for the best interests of the child. The court examined child custody in the context of physical abuse. Under the law, a child’s “home state” determines which state court will hear the case. Under this law, initial child custody jurisdiction under UCCJEA lies in the “home state” of the child, defined as the state in which the child lived with the parent or acting parent for at least six months before the proceedings.

Home state and six months determine a court’s decision

On their way back from Ohio, children disclosed to their aunt they had suffered extreme emotional and physical abuse by their mother and her live-in girlfriend. Two months later, a court granted the aunt legal custody under state law, only to dismiss her petition for extended custody six months later. Having found that the children had been choked and tortured, a separate court awarded the aunt temporary custody. The aunt appealed the mother’s successful motion to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds.

In its review, the court analyzed UCCJEA against the facts. The court also applied an emergency jurisdiction exception to the requirements that grants jurisdiction in a case mistreatment or abuse, even though the abuse had occurred out of state. The court ruled that the analysis for jurisdiction begins at the inception of the case. Six months had passed when the aunt filed for dependency. The aunt’s physical custody made her a person acting as a parent under UCCJEA. The court reversed the lower court’s decision.

Experience matters

Family relocation sets in motion an avalanche of events. Legal consequences follow wherever a family ultimately decides to live. Attorneys who understand how the law applies in Florida can offer guidance.

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