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Court Determines if Divorce Petition Proper because of Subject Matter Jurisdiction


A New York Family Lawyer said the appellant of the case is Harry Louis Eckel who is represented by Dennis A. Barbarisi, from Fort Walton Beach. The appellee of the case is Anita Karla Eckel who is represented by John P. Townsend of Chesser, Wingard, Barr & Townsend in Fort Walton Beach.

The Appeal

Harry Louis Eckel is seeking an appeal from an order made by the circuit court that dismisses his petition for dissolution of his marriage based on lack of personal jurisdiction.

Case History

The appellant and the appellee were married in May of 1981 in the city of Queens, New York. The couple lived in West Germany until May of 1983 when the wife left Germany and moved to the city of Montgomery in Alabama. The appellant filed a dissolution of marriage petition in Okaloosa County, Florida stating he is currently residing there and has lived in the county for at least half a year prior to the petition being filed.

The wife motions to dismiss the petition as she states the court lacks jurisdiction over the case because her husband had not been a resident physically in the state of Florida for at least half a year before he filed the petition for the dissolution of the marriage.

A court hearing was held for the motion to dismiss and the wife appeared at the hearing. A New York Criminal Lawyer said she contested the jurisdiction of the court stating that she had never lived in Florida. However, the husband had lived in Florida when he was a member of the Air Force from 1964 to 1971. He bought a home in Okaloosa County in the year 1970 and has maintained ownership of the home over the years. He left Florida in 1971 as he was stationed in West Germany from 1971 through 1975. In 1975, he retired from the military and then lived in Florida for a time period of six months. He was then hired by the United States Department of Defense as a civilian employee and relocated to West Germany. He has lived in West Germany until the petition was filed. Despite not physically living in Florida for a number of years, the husband has maintained a bank account with Eglin Federal Credit Union and has a driver’s license from the state, which is current, and has voted in Florida since the year 1968.

Court Discussion and Verdict of Appeal

When in the military a state of residence is where the individual resided prior to being deployed somewhere else. A Brooklyn Family Lawyer said that in this particular case there is no evidence to show that the husband has had a legal residence located in any other state other than Florida. There is also no evidence to show that the husband has had any inclination, since 1970 when he was a member of the military or working as a civilian for the military, to make any other state besides Florida his home.

For these reasons, we do not find any support either in facts provided by the case or in the law that are sufficient for holding the original verdict of the court for dismissal of the petition. We are reversing the order of the previous court and grant the appeal to the husband.

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