If you have an out-of-state custody order that you are trying to get enforced in Florida, a specific process must be followed as outlined in Chapter 61, Part II, of the Florida Statutes.
Part II of Chapter 61 contains a set of statutes that are referred to as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act or the “UCCJEA”. The UCCJEA governs jurisdictional issues related to custody.
Specifically, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act is intended to:
- Avoid jurisdictional competition and conflict with courts of other states in matters of child custody which have in the past resulted in the shifting of children from state to state with harmful effects on their well-being;
- Promote cooperation with the courts of other states to the end that a custody decree is rendered in the state that can best decide the case in the interest of the child;
- Discourage the use of the interstate system for continuing controversies over child custody;
- Deter abductions;
- Avoid relitigating the custody decisions of other states in this state;
- Facilitate the enforcement of custody decrees of other states;
- Promote and expand the exchange of information and other forms of mutual assistance between the courts of this state and those of other states concerned with the same child; and
- Make uniform the law with respect to the subject of this part among the states enacting it.
Section 61.502, Florida Statutes (2016).
When a Florida court is faced with an order (or a custody decree) issued by another state, it will give that order (or a custody decree) “full faith and credit … unless the order has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so.” Section 61.536, Florida Statutes (2016).
This means that a Florida court is able to recognize and enforce an out-of-state custody order and, when enforcing such an out-of-state custody order, may employ any available remedy. See Sections 61.529 and 61.526(2), Florida Statutes (2016).
It is also important to note that where there are simultaneous custody proceedings, a Florida court may not exercise its jurisdiction if at the time of the commencement of the proceeding, a proceeding concerning the custody of the child had already been commenced in another state having jurisdiction, unless the proceeding has been terminated or stayed by the court of the other state because it has found the Florida court to be a more convenient forum. See Section 61.519(1), Florida Statutes (2016).
For a Florida court to have jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination, there first must be a determination that the State of Florida is the child’s “home state” on the date of the commencement of the proceeding or was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the proceeding. See Section 61.514(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2016).
A child’s “home state” is the state in which a child has lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding. In the case of a child younger than 6 months of age, the term “home state” means the state in which the child has lived from birth with any of the aforementioned persons. Section 61.503(7), Florida Statutes (2016).
However, at the same time, a Florida court may still exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction provided the child is physically present in the State of Florida and has either been abandoned or the exercise of temporary emergency jurisdiction is necessary to protect the child from actual or threatened mistreatment or abuse. See Section 61.517(1), Florida Statutes (2016).
As no two child custody cases are alike and given the existence of many exceptions to and interpretations of the foregoing, it is always best to consult with an attorney about the particulars of your case so that a specifically-tailored course of action can be developed.