Our state’s appellate courts saw some interesting child custody cases throughout the year of 2018. The Florida Chapter Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (FLAFCC) has put together a list of the top 10 cases of interest across the board. They touch on a variety of issues, with the subject of relocation continuing to be a “hot button” topic.
Let us look at some of the topics addressed. In one matter, a child’s mother died unexpectedly. The child was being raised by the mother and stepfather, and had resided with them for several years. As such, the step-father filed for custody which was granted on a temporary basis until trial. The biological father was stationed in Germany and had very little contact with the child. The child fully wished to stay with the step-father. However, the appellate court determined that the trial court entered that ruling in error as the biological father had not been found unfit, and therefore maintained custody rights. The decision was remanded back to the trial court with instructions for the court to make additional findings as to why it would be detrimental to the child to relocated to Germany.
In another case involving relocation issues, a mother filed for divorce and moved to a different state with the child without obtaining an agreement or order stating that the husband was in agreement. However, the parties had entered into an agreement that the Mother would maintain custody of the child until a scheduled mediation, with the father having one month visitation periods in both summer and winter. During the father’s summer visitation period, he filed an emergency motion with the court requesting to keep the child because the mother had not filed a petition to relocate. However, the language of the previous agreement took precedence and the court found that the wife was not required to file a petition because the husband had already agreed to it.
These are only two examples of complex child custody issues. Do not attempt to navigate the difficult matters alone. An experienced attorney can make sure there are no loop holes in an agreement that may cause future custody issues.