Do I Have To Pay Child Support If My Child Moves Abroad?
Do I have to pay child support if my child moves abroad? According to the Fifth District Court of Appeals presiding over Orlando and Orange County, a parent residing in Florida may be required to pay child support for their child, even if that child is no longer living in the United States. A new decision made by the Fifth District Court of Appeals solidifies this position in the Orange County Florida family law courts. The case citation is Keogh v. Keogh, No. 5D18-1080, 2018 WL 4168553 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018).
In Keogh, the Fifth District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision. In doing so, the 5th DCA arrived at its ruling on the question, do I have to pay child support if my child moves abroad. The trial court had erroneously dismissed the mother’s request for child support during a dissolution of marriage action (divorce). Mom had moved to Ireland with the minor child and asked the court order for child support despite her relocation with the child. The trial court held that it did not have jurisdiction to order child support since the child no longer lived in Florida.
Fifth DCA Rules on Do I Have To Pay Child Support If My Child Moves Abroad?
However, the Fifth District Court of Appeals overturned the trial court’s decision. The Fifth DCA in Keogh decided that although Florida is not the minor child’s current state of residence, the Florida Court will retain its jurisdiction to award child support to the mother. The Court specifically pointed to the facts that the parties were married in Florida, and their divorce proceedings were brought in a Florida court. These two crucial facts gave Florida courts personal jurisdiction over the parents even though one parent had moved overseas.
The legal undergirding is that once the Florida court has jurisdiction over a family law litigant, the court retains jurisdiction to decide on all matters substantially related to the case. In this instance, the court held jurisdiction over the parent’s divorce and child support payments are substantially related to mom and dad’s marriage and divorce. The court answered the question we posed, do I have to pay child support if my child moves abroad.
Under Florida statute §61.13(1)(a), a court is able to “order either or both parents who owe a duty to support a child to pay support to the other parent.” This is fundamental Florida statutory law. The Fifth Circuit District Court of Appeals decided to interpret this statute exactly as it is written. The Court determined that, although the mother and child lived for several years in another country, Florida courts maintain the authority to order a parent, over whom jurisdiction has been established, to pay child support to the mother and child living abroad. The lesson here is that a child support obligation does not end simply because one parent moves to another state or country.
Do I have to pay child support if my child moves abroad? The Florida court presently has jurisdiction to order the father to pay child support, however, the 5th DCA made an important distinction that may apply to a future change of circumstances; the Keogh court ruled that “The fact that a custody proceeding may, at some point, be instituted in Ireland does not preclude a Florida court from presently exercising its authorized jurisdiction to award child support.” The Florida court may lose its jurisdiction at a future time and any existing child support order could be canceled.
Neyza Guzman is a third-year law student and Juris Doctor candidate at Barry University School of Law who will sit for the Florida Bar in July 2019.
Jonathan Jacobs is a divorce attorney in Orlando and a family law attorney in Clermont Florida.