A common concern with families who travel or move frequently for work, like military families, is where they can get a divorce involving children. The answer to this question depends on a few factors, but mainly where everyone lives, and where they have recently lived. In family law, when children are involved, there is something called a “home state”, which is typically defined as the state where the children have lived for the six months immediately prior to the time in question. The time in question for a divorce is the date the case is filed. Only a child’s home state has jurisdiction over the children to make a ruling or enter an order for timesharing and parental responsibility, which together are commonly called custody. Section 61.514 of the Florida Statutes determines where a child custody order can be entered, and must be carefully understood and followed.
While it is possible to get a divorce in a state that does not have jurisdiction over the children, this is generally not a good idea, because then a separate lawsuit would have to happen in the children’s home state to establish timesharing and parental responsibility. So what happens is both parents leave the State of Florida, move to two separate states, and now want a divorce, but it hasn’t been six month since they left Florida? Technically, Florida still has home state jurisdiction to enter an order regarding the children, as long as the case is filed before that six month mark. This may seem odd, since now a divorce case will be happening in Florida when neither the parents nor the children live here, but no other state would have jurisdiction over the children yet.
Another similar issue arises when the parties have lived overseas for a period of time due to employment, such as a deployment. This issue becomes even more complicated if the home of origin for the husband is different from that of the wife. This is when the nuances of section 61.514 of the Florida Statutes becomes very important. If you find yourself in this situation, or any situation involving children and multiple states, it is important to consult with a family law attorney who has experience handling these types of jurisdictional issues.