The Florida Supreme Court will review the Fifth District’s decision in LeDoux-Nottingham v. Downs, 163 So. 3d 560 (Fla. 5th DCA 2015), which involves whether the Full Faith & Credit Clause trumps Florida’s overriding public policy of a guaranteed fundamental right of privacy in child-rearing autonomy. See SC15-1037.
After the funeral of her ex-husband in Colorado, Ruth LeDoux-Nottingham immediately moved to Florida with her two minor children. During this time, the grandparents filed suit in Colorado, seeking visitation with the children. LeDoux-Nottingham then asked a Florida court to determine that the grandparents had no legal time-sharing rights. By then, the Colorado court held that having grandparent visitation was in the minor children’s best interest.
Shortly after, LeDoux-Nottingham amended her Florida petition. According to Article I, section 23 of the Florida Constitution, “every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life.” LeDoux-Nottingham relied on this section and presented a public policy argument, claiming that “under Florida law, enforcement of grandparent visitation [was] unconstitutional and against public policy” because it violated child-rearing autonomy guaranteed to parents under the Florida Constitution. After a trial, the Florida court entered final judgment in favor of the grandparents, enforcing the Colorado order.
LeDoux-Nottingham appealed to the Fifth District. The Fifth District affirmed the trial court’s decision and rejected her public policy argument because it was similar to one the Fifth District rejected sixteen years ago in Bellow v. Bellow, 736 So. 2d 759 (Fla. 5th DCA 1999) (holding that another state’s decree was still entitled to full faith and credit despite it potentially violating public policy in the forum state). The court reasoned: “Since the Colorado order was a final judgment and emanated from a ‘child custody proceeding’ within the meaning of section 61.503(4) of the Florida Statutes (2013), it became enforceable pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause.” The Fifth District also relied on Baker v. General Motors Corp., 522 U.S. 222 (1998), where the Supreme Court expressly made “clear that public policy of one state [had] no effect on whether the state must give full faith and credit to judgments.”
Oral argument took place on June 7, 2016. This article will be updated once the supreme court decides the case.