Florida child custody case to test jurisdiction

In a child custody case involving a Miccosukee woman and a non-tribal man, a Florida court has a set a hearing date to determine whether the state of Florida or the Miccosukee Indian reservation should preside over the child custody dispute between the parents.

The unmarried couple met in 2003 and had two biological children together. However, as with many relationships, theirs did not work out. Nevertheless, the couple had an informal child sharing arrangement in place. According to reports, even though the children lived with their mother, they spent every other weekend with their father. Shortly after the man sent his mother to pick up the children, the Miccosukee woman objected claiming that she never agreed to the children's paternal grandmother picking them up.

Shortly thereafter the Miccosukee mother filed a petition for temporary custody with the tribal court. The court granted her petition the same day and set a hearing. In addition to the custody hearing in tribal court, the father filed paperwork in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court. However, his attorney was not allowed to attend the tribal court hearing, because he did not speak the Miccosukee language. The entire hearing was conducted in Miccosukee language and the court awarded the mother custody of the children aged 5 and 6.

The father claims that the mother did not live on the reservation with the children. However, the mother claims that she been the sole provider of the children, and that the children have always lived with her. If the father can show that the children did not live on the Miccosukee reservation for at least six months before the child custody dispute began, then the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act applies, and a Miami-Dade Circuit Court may have jurisdiction, granting the father his day court regarding child custody. The hearing to determine jurisdiction is set for Sept. 6.

As shown by the case above, mothers are not the only ones with custody rights. Fathers also have the right to share custody of their child or at least to obtain visitation rights with their child. Whether it is joint custody or sole custody that is at stake, fathers' rights are important and should not be ignored. An experienced family law attorney can provide more information as to the custody rights available to fathers.

Source: McClatchy, "Child custody case tests tribal, non-tribal rights," David Ovalle, July 14, 2013

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