Raton v. Wallace (Fifth DCA, December 22, 2016). 

The parties’ marital settlement agreement stated that the children would attend counseling with a specific doctor, Dr. Meade.  After the divorce, the mother relocated with the children to another county and thereafter arranged for the children to attend therapy with a different therapist.  The father sought to hold the mother in contempt and the trial court denied his motion.  The father appealed.

The Fifth DCA affirmed, noting that the marital settlement agreement did not specifically state that Dr. Meade was the only acceptable therapist.  The District Court added that the mother was complying with the “intent” of the MSA by continuing to take the children to counseling after it became impractical for the children to continue to see Dr. Meade.  The District Court concluded that under these circumstances, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the father’s motion for contempt.

Haugabook v. Jeffcoat-Hultberg (Fourth DCA, December 22, 2016)

In this UCCJEA case, the child’s home state was Florida and the child’s parents were not married.  The father brought the child to his cousin in Georgia who thereafter initiated a dependency action in that state.  The mother then filed an emergency petition for a child pick-up order in Florida.  The Florida court entered an order stating that it had conferred with the Georgia court and that it was denying the petition and declining to exercise jurisdiction at this time.

The mother appealed and the District Court treated the appeal as a petition for certiorari, which it granted.  Initially, the Court observed that the UCCJEA favors litigating custody disputes in the state in which the parents reside, rather than, for example, forcing a parent to pursue a “fleeing parent and the child in another state.”  However, the Court noted that the UCCJEA allows a court outside of a child’s home-state to exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction so long as the child is present in the acting state (in this case, Georgia).  The Court explained further that a court in a child’s home state may decline to exercise jurisdiction only in certain enumerated circumstances, such as when it determines that the home state would be an inconvenient forum.

The District Court next observed that the UCCJEA permits courts in different states to speak with one another in an attempt to resolve jurisdiction issues.  However, in such circumstances the parties must be allowed to participate in the communication and a verbatim record of the communication must be made.

In the instant case, the Florida court denied the mother’s petition after speaking to the Georgia court, but it had failed to permit the parties to participate in the call and it had failed to make a record of the communication.  For this reason alone, the order “require[d] reversal.”  The District Court concluded by stating that if the Florida court still determined that it would decline home-state jurisdiction, it must include within its order “factual findings that satisfy the requirements of the statute.”