Family Law Appellate Update for week ending 2/17/17

FelixBaseman
FelixBaseman

Ledoux-Nottingham v. Downs (Florida Supreme Court, February 16, 2017)

The mother and father divorced in Colorado in 2010 and soon after the father died.  The father’s parents (the “grandparents”) sought visitation with the children and the Colorado court granted their request.  The mother domesticated the Colorado order in Florida and asked to modify it based on longstanding Florida precedent that grandparents are not entitled to visitation rights and that granting such rights violates the privacy provisions of the Florida constitution.  The trial court held that the Colorado visitation order was enforceable under the Full Faith and Credit clause of the United States Constitution.  The mother appealed and the Fifth DCA affirmed, certifying conflict with a contrary holding out of the Fourth DCA.

The Florida Supreme Court affirmed.  First, the Court held that out-of-state custody orders are entitled to full faith and credit, and not merely comity, under the Parental Kidnaping Prevention Act of 1980 which requires, among other things, that each state enforce the custody and visitation determinations of other states.  The Court then determined that no public policy exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause existed.  Although the Court agreed that statutes giving grandparents visitation rights in Florida are unconstitutional under Florida’s right of privacy, it explained that this was not the issue in the current case.  Instead, the question was merely whether Florida should enforce the duly entered Colorado judgment.  On that question, the Court answered in the affirmative.