The state of Florida, like any other state, has certain jurisdictions for courts over cases. Jurisdiction in the law is the authority of the courts to try cases on legal matters within a specific area and over certain kinds or types of legal cases. In this case, jurisdiction pertains to family law and the dissolution of marriage. There is an acronym used in family law in Florida over what courts have to deal with in the dissolution of marriage. It spells out PEACE and stands for parenting, equitable distribution, alimony, child support, and everything else- like different attorney fees, etc. Jurisdiction over divorce or separation is very dependent upon residency and certain factors that must be established in order for a court to try the case.
Residency is an important determining factor over whether or not a court has jurisdiction to rule over a case concerning the dissolution of marriage. According to the Florida Statute §61.021: “To obtain a dissolution of marriage, one of the parties to the marriage must reside 6 months in the state before the filing of the petition.” (Fla. Stat. §61.021). Therefore, Florida courts have jurisdiction over cases depending on whether or not a six-month residency is established and proven. There have been many cases in which courts have made errors trying cases that they are not supposed to have authority over. In the cases of Scudder v. Scudder, and Rudel v. Rudel, the lower courts that ruled over these cases did not have the jurisdiction to allow the cases for the dissolution of marriage to proceed.
Jurisdiction and Residency Court Cases
Scudder v. Scudder, 228 So. 3d 703 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2017) was a case in which the court granted the husband’s motion to help impose a parenting plan after their divorce was official. According to the former Mrs. Scudder, there was no evidence that the family ever had an established residence in the state of Florida, so the court had no authority over their marital dissolution judgment.
However, the Collier County circuit court continued proceeding with the husband’s motion for a parenting plan. This case was later reversed and remanded because the circuit court denied the wife’s petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. This court also had no jurisdiction to adjudicate any part of this family’s divorce due to the fact that there was little to no evidence of either the husband or wife’s residence in Florida.
Rudel v. Rudel, 111 So.3d,285,2888
The case of Rudel v. Rudel, 111 So. 3d 285, 288 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2013) is similar to that of Scudder v. Scudder. However, this case also takes into consideration an international aspect. The wife and child moved to Florida on a visa due to the fact they were German citizens. There were allegations and claims of domestic abuse, and the wife petitioned for the dissolution of the marriage.
The circuit court in Palm Beach Country dismissed her dissolution of marriage based on the lack of subject matter jurisdiction, which she then appealed. However, it was affirmed that the court could not adjudicate this case of dissolution for a couple of different circumstances. One is the wife’s tourist visa.
The other is based on the fact that the court also determined she had not established any kind of intent to remain in Florida. Both of these factors provided enough support to affirm the trial court’s ruling that this matter was out of their jurisdiction. However, there was also a ruling over an injunction on the husband for protection against domestic violence.
This part of the case was reversed in order for a new hearing to be established. The husband did not have the opportunity to provide evidence for his side of the issue. Therefore, more information was needed in order to determine whether or not the court did have jurisdiction over the petition for the injunction.
Details Affect the Outcome of Cases
These cases both deal with the jurisdiction of the court over the dissolution of marriage based on residency. Although they are similar in the fact that both cases had no evidence of residency, the details differ. In both cases, a lower court erred in adjudicating cases of dissolution they did not have jurisdiction over.
However, Rudel v. Rudel deals with an international citizenship factor in addition to an injunction for domestic violence. The residence requirements that give the court jurisdiction over cases for the dissolution of marriage are pretty straightforward. However, there are some exceptions.
One instance is in the case of someone who is in any of the armed forces and serving. Under the Florida statute §47.081; “Any person in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, and the husband or wife of any such person, if he or she is living within the borders of the state, shall be prima facie a resident of the state for the purpose of maintaining any action.” (Fla. Stat. §47.081). Typically, most military personnel are required to move very frequently, which could make it difficult to petition for the dissolution of marriage in the state of Florida.
Especially with the residential requirements needed in order for courts to have jurisdiction over the dissolution. However, with the separate statute for military, naval, or other service personnel, it basically states that they should be accepted as a resident of the state and a six-month residency is not required. However, this statute is specific to and only pertains to anyone serving in any branch of the U.S. armed forces and their husband or wife.
Gordon v. Gordon, 369 So. 2d 421
In the case of Gordon v. Gordon, 369 So. 2d 421 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1979) the husband appealed the granted dissolution of marriage that the wife had filed. When he appealed it, the Dade County circuit court claimed that they did not have jurisdiction over the case because the wife did not meet the residence requirements stated in the Florida statute. However, this case was later reversed and dissented due to the statute that is associated with military personnel.
Under Fla. Stat. §47.081, the spouse of the person who is in service is given the same rights. She had not lived in Florida for the two and a half years prior to the petition, however, her former husband was in the United States Air Force. She also still maintained a Florida Driver’s License and Registration Card and made it clear that it was always her intent to live in Florida permanently. In this case, the wife of someone in the military should have the same rights and benefits that are stated in Fla. Stat. §47.081.
Eckel v. Eckel, 522 So.2d 1018, 1020
Another case involving the dissolution of marriage of someone in the military is Eckel v. Eckel, 522 So. 2d 1018, 1020 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1988). This action was dismissed by the Okaloosa County circuit court and was then appealed. It was later determined that Mr. Eckel had the residential requirements for Florida, so the dismissal was reversed. Originally, the husband filed the dissolution, but the wife motioned to dismiss the petition based on the fact the court lacked jurisdiction over the case.
The court originally ruled that Mr. Eckel, a serviceman was not allowed to file for divorce based on his residency. Eventually, when the case was reversed, he was also able to demonstrate that he maintained legal residency in Florida and nowhere else, and also had the intentions of making Florida his permanent residence after his time in the military.
Both Florida statutes §61.021 and §47.081 concern how residency impacts the jurisdiction of Florida courts over cases involving the dissolution of marriage. In order to file for a divorce or separation in the state of Florida, one of the parties must have an established residence in the state for six months prior to the action.
When service members in any of the United States military branches are involved, residency requirements can differ. Although circumstances can vary, resident requirements are a large factor over the jurisdiction of the dissolution of marriage in Florida courts.
Florida statute §61.021
Florida statute §47.081
Scudder v. Scudder, 228 So. 3d 703 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2017)
Rudel v. Rudel, 111 So. 3d 285, 288 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2013)
Gordon v. Gordon, 369 So. 2d 421 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1979)
Eckel v. Eckel, 522 So. 2d 1018, 1020 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1988)