Custody, Visitation and Emergency Evacuations Out-of-State

The New York Times just published Torn by Storm, [Louisiana] Families Tangle Anew on Custody. It’s a thought-provoking article that resonates with every family lawyer who practices in a hurricane zone like New Orleans – and South Florida.

The sheer scale of the disaster, the vast number of custody and visitation orders impacted and an indefinitely shut-down court system all make for a volatile, frustrating mix. Post-Wilma South Florida experienced it too, if to a lesser degree.

And now parents are giving – and should give – more thought to how evacuation scenarios should be handled.

Floridians should note that post-divorce relocations are not handled the same way in Florida as in Louisiana. And the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act is not the current law in Florida. (Florida repealed that statute when it enacted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.)

It should also be noted that the article’s brief, superficial analysis (probably by a nonlawyer) may not predict correctly the likely legal impact on jurisdiction of temporary relocations by the primary residential parent, especially subsequent to entry of the original custody and visitation order.

(Anyone caught up in a situation like this really should consult an attorney about the particular laws and facts of their particular case.)

Also, as in Louisiana, Florida statutes governing child custody, visitation and relocation do not explicitly articulate special rules in the event of hurricanes or other natural disasters.