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Child custody case questions jurisdiction in Florida

For decades, there has been an attitude that raising children is the mother's role, completely overlooking the fact that many fathers desperately want to be involved in their children's lives. Fortunately, that stereotype has begun an evolution. One father in Florida is desperate to gain partial child custody of his two young children. However, the case is complicated by the fact that the children's mother is a Native American, currently living on a reservation, and the initial ruling on the case was made by the tribal court on the reservation.

The mother and father met and eventually had two children together; however, they never married. The relationship ended, and the former couple initiated an informal child custody system in which the courts were not involved. This arrangement worked well until, the mother alleges, she began another relationship, and tensions between the two parents flared. The last straw for the mother came when the father, who was supposed to pick up the children for school, sent his mother instead, causing her to file for temporary custody with the tribal court.

The father claims that when he arrived for court, his lawyer was not allowed to enter, and the proceedings were all in the tribal language. At the end, sole custody was temporarily awarded to the mother. The father then turned his attention to the Florida court system. According to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, if the father can prove that the mother lived off the reservation in the last six months, Florida courts have jurisdiction over the case. The father hopes that having his case heard in a Florida court, as opposed to tribal court, will increase his chances of creating a custody arrangement where he shares time with his former partner.

The tragedy in this case is not the clash of cultures, but rather the two children caught in the middle of a battle between two parents who obviously love them very much. One can only hope that this split Florida family can eventually work out a child custody agreement that satisfies both parents. Ultimately, parents, judges and lawyers are all working toward establishing what is in the best interest of the children.

Source: Miami Herald, "Child custody case tests jurisdiction of Miccosukee, Miami-Dade courts," David Ovalle, July 6, 2013

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