Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Case Law Development: Dueling Jurisdiction Between Enforcing State and Modifying State under UCCJEA

In the present case, although the record is clear that the child and her parents do not have significant contacts with the state of Florida, nevertheless, pursuant to [*11]  the analysis applied in Yurgel and Lamon, Florida is the state where the initial custody order was entered at a time when all parties resided in the state; it was the state where the custody modification was entered, and where the modification order was reversed. Moreover, the only reason the child was in the state of The Florida Court of Appeals takes a march through the UCCJEA in a case in whioh Mother lived in Massachusetts, Father and Child lived in Tennessee, but the original custody order was rendered in Florida and Florida had retained jurisdiction over the action.  The case provides a relatively clear factual pattern for teaching application of the UCCJEA provisions regarding competing jurisdictional bases. 

The sequence of events in the case are:
2000 - Florida - judgment of dissolution gave Wife primary residential custody of Child. Father files a petition for modification of custody and to relocate Child with him to Tennessee.
2002 - Florida court grants Mother permission to move with the child to Massachusetts.
2004 - Florida grants Father's petition for modification of custody.  Mother appeals but sends child to live with Father in Tennessee.
2005 - Florida Court of Appeals reverses judgment of modification. Father responds by filing suit in Tennessee for order granting him custody.  Father argues that Tennessee has become the child's home state because she had been residing with him there for the prior year, during the pendency of the appeal in Florida.

The story from there on is a series of conflicting orders in both the Tennessee and Florida trial courts.

The Florida Court of Appeals sorts out the matter by noting that, while the Tennessee court was looking to provisions of the UCCJEA providing jurisdiction to modify a custody determination based on Tennessee having become the child's home state, the trial court had overlooked the enforcement provisions of the act providing that, because Florida had retained continuing jurisdiction to enforce its orders, Tennessee could not exercise jurisdiction to modify the custody order unless Florida had terminated or stayed its own proceeding.

Staats v. McKinnon, 2006 Fla. App. LEXIS 2677 (February 27, 2006)

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