Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Child Custody

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a codified set of rules which has been adopted by 49 states in the United States. Essentially, it is a set of rules these states agree to follow when it comes to child custody cases so that contradicting rulings are not made in cases when parties move to different states or try to file cases in multiple states. One appellate case shows us how the the UCCJEA is applied in a multi-jurisdiction case.

In McAbee v. McAbee, 4D17-3450 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018), the parties were originally divorced in Virginia. The former wife alleged the parties’ daughter was sexually abused by the former husband. After hearings and investigation, the Virginia court determined the allegations were not true. The former husband was then awarded visitation. Thereafter, the former wife attempted to file custody actions in Florida which were repeatedly dismissed based on lack of jurisdiction.

After multiple attempts to file a custody action in Orange County, Florida, the former wife fled to South Carolina with the parties’ child without notifying the court or the former husband. Subsequently, the former husband filed an emergency motion for transfer of custody which was granted. The former wife unsuccessfully attempted to obtain a restraining order against the former husband in South Carolina on behalf of the parties’ child. The former wife next filed a petition in Broward County, Florida re-alleging the sexual abuse.

After a hearing, the Broward court entered an order for permanent injunction, ordering the former husband to have no contact with the parties’ daughter. The former husband appealed, arguing it was error for the trial court to fail to communicate with the Virginia court as required by the UCCJEA. The appellate court agreed with the former husband holding, “The statute ensures that the court exercising temporary emergency jurisdiction—which has only a snapshot of information pertinent to the custody determination—obtains the knowledge of the other court to make the best decision possible for the child. Such knowledge is especially important in a case such as this that has involved a years-long contentious custody dispute, heinous allegations of abuse, and the exact opposite custody determination from the other court just two months prior. The appropriate remedy for the trial court's failure to immediately communicate with the Virginia court is to remand this matter for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court to contact the Virginia court pursuant to [the UCCJEA].”

If you are facing a Florida child custody matter, a consultation with a Miami family law attorney may help you understand your best defenses. Set one today to create a road map to success in your case.