Jurisdiction means the Court has the ability to decide the case.  Jurisdiction to hear cases depends upon the nature of the case.

Initial Child Custody—Florida Statute 61.514

Florida courts have jurisdiction to hear matters involving child(ren) if the child(ren) have lived in Florida for at least six months before the beginning of the case.  Florida courts also have jurisdiction if the child(ren) lived in Florida within six months before the beginning of the case and the parent still lives in Florida.  This is the most common way jurisdiction is established in child custody cases.  For example, if a mother moves with a child in April after living in Florida for five years, Florida courts would maintain jurisdiction over the child’s custody until November of the same year.  The father of the child could file for custody of the child in Florida courts before November of the same year.

Jurisdiction can also be established if the home state of the child has declined jurisdiction, the child’s parent (or person acting as a parent) has a significant connection with Florida, and substantial evidence is available in Florida concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships.  Finally, if no other court of any other state would have jurisdiction then Florida will hear the case.


Dissolution of Marriage—Florida Statutes 61.021

For a dissolution of marriage (divorce), at least one of the parties must have resided in Florida for six months before the filing of the petition.  If there are child(ren) or custody issues that need to be resolved during the divorce, the above rules of jurisdiction should be followed.  The state where the marriage was performed could also have jurisdiction.  If the other party tries to file in a different state, a lawyer licensed in that state should be consulted.


Enforcement or Modification of Existing Order for Child Support or Alimony—Florida Statute 61.14

The Florida Court that entered the existing order has jurisdiction to decide matters concerning enforcement and or modification of existing orders.  Jurisdiction is also proper in a Florida court where either parent currently lives.  This is not to be confused with collecting child support or alimony.  There are procedures where courts in other states can enforce an existing order for child support or alimony.  An attorney in those states should be contacted for legal advice.


Continuing Jurisdiction of Child Custody—Florida Statute 61.515

After a Florida court has made a decision concerning child custody, that court has continuing and exclusive jurisdiction until:  the child or the child’s parents no longer have significant ties to Florida, or a court in Florida or another state determines that the child, child’s parent (or person acting as the child’s parent) do not presently live in Florida.


Jurisdiction to Modify Child Custody from Another State—Florida Statute 61.516

A Florida court may not modify a child custody order from another state unless, Florida would now have original jurisdiction (the child has resided in Florida for at least 6 months), and the court of the other state no longer has exclusive and continuing jurisdiction or neither parent or child lives in the other state.


Temporary, Emergency Jurisdiction—Florida Statute 61.517

A Florida court has temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is present in Florida and if the child is abandoned, or the child or parent of the child is abused or threatened to be abused.


Declining Jurisdiction—Florida Statute 61.521

Florida courts may decline jurisdiction if the person seeking to file the case has jurisdiction in Florida because of “unjustifiable conduct.”  The main example would be if the parent kidnapped the child from another state and came to Florida to establish jurisdiction here.  If a Florida court declines jurisdiction, additional measures can be taken to protect the child and sanctions can be ordered against the offending parent.


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