Florida & Custody – The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act by Dana E. Quigley, Esq.
Florida & Custody – The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (also known as a UCCJEA) is an act that gives Florida courts the authority to rule on issues of child custody and other child related matters. The UCCJEA gives exclusive and continuous jurisdiction in child custody matters—and other child related matters—with the courts in the child’s home state. The home state does not necessarily mean where the child is born but means where the child lived for six successive, continuous months before the dissolution of marriage, paternity case, guardianship, or other cases that involve child related matters (such as custody, child support, separate maintenance, visitation, timesharing, dependency, and child neglect) are originally filed. Or, of course, from the child’s birth if he or she was born less than 6 months before the case was filed.
The “home state" of the child has exclusive authority (jurisdiction) to determine child custody, timesharing (visitation), and child support matters once it is determined that no other state has already established its exclusive authority over the matters relating to the child. If another state was originally determined to be the “home state" of the child, the new state will not have authority to issue orders concerning the child’s custody (or other child related issues, with a few exceptions) until it is determined that the child, child’s parents, guardian, and any other caregiver acting as a parent figure in the child’s life no longer reside in the original “home state" that issued the original custody, timesharing (visitation), and/or child support orders.
In Florida, every family law case (whether it is dissolution of marriage, paternity case, guardianship, or cases that involve other child related matters such as custody, child support, separate maintenance, visitation, timesharing, dependency, and child neglect, et cetera) each party in the case is required to file and serve a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit certifying information relating to the parties and the child(ren). This affidavit includes the following:
The number of minor children involved in the proceeding. This includes the name, residence at birth, date of birth, sex of each child, the present address of the child, how long the child has resided at every address in the past 5 years. The parties must also disclose with whom the child has lived with during the past 5 years. (Victims of domestic violence are permitted to write in “confidential" and withhold the current residence by filing a request for confidential filing of address with the court.)
Each party must also disclose whether they have participated in a previous custody or timesharing proceeding in any other litigation or custody proceeding anywhere else (including within the state or in any other state) regarding a child involved in the current proceeding. If a previous case does exist, each party must disclose the name of the child, type of proceeding, the court and the state, and the date of any previous court orders or judgments that were previously issued or in any matters that remain pending in another jurisdiction.
Each party must also disclose if they know of any other person (not involved in this current proceeding) who has physical custody or claims to custody, timesharing (visitation) or other matters relating to the child(ren) involved in the current proceeding.
Similarly, each party must disclose if any other prior child support proceedings have taken place or are pending in another jurisdiction. Specifically, each party must state whether there are pre-existing child support orders in any other jurisdiction (including this state, any other state, or any other territory). If a previous child support order does exist in another jurisdiction, each party must disclose the name of each child, type of proceeding, the court and address, date of the previous child support order or judgment, and the amount of child support that is supposed to be paid and by whom, involved in the previous child support judgment or order(s).
Because this is an affidavit, it must be sworn to or affirmed under oath with a certification that the statements made are accurate and truthful and must be signed before a Notary Public. The punishment for knowingly making a false statement can include fines and/or imprisonment. Each party must also keep the Court advised of any updates or additional information regarding any other child related proceedings in another jurisdiction, even if those events take place after the affidavit is originally filed.
If someone in your case has failed to properly advise the court of the information needed to be included in the UCCJEA, it is advisable to notify the court about the same.