California Court Discusses Jurisdiction in Custody Cases

There are many ways to raise a child, and some parents engage in childrearing habits that may be viewed as unconventional. For example, parents may choose to adopt a nomadic lifestyle instead of raising their children in one location. In such instances, it may not immediately be clear what state has jurisdiction over custody disputes. Recently, a California court discussed the assumption of jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the Act) in a matter in which the state terminated a mother’s parental rights. If you need assistance with a custody dispute, it is smart to meet with a dedicated San Diego child custody lawyer regarding your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

History of the Case

It is reported that the mother lived in a van with her two minor adopted children. In 2019, Montana’s child protective services removed the children from the mother’s care due to evidence she abused and neglected them. A court placed the children with their grandmother but later returned them to the mother’s care. The mother and one of the children then traveled to Washington, where she was again investigated by child protective services before ending up in California.

Allegedly, the mother, who had significant mental health issues, called the police regarding a perceived bomb threat and was placed under a psychiatric hold. The Department of Children and Family services moved to terminate the mother’s parental rights and the child was removed from the mother’s custody. The mother later objected, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction over the matter.

Jurisdiction Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

On appeal, the appellate court upheld the trial court ruling, finding that California had jurisdiction under the Act. The court explained that the Act sets forth a framework to address custody issues across the states and noted that nearly every state in the country adopted it.

Under the Act, there are four ways a state can gain jurisdiction. The first, home state jurisdiction, is conferred if the child lived in a state with a parent for at least six months in a row prior to a custody proceeding. Second, significant connections jurisdiction arises when at least one parent and the child have a substantial connection with the state, and there is significant evidence pertaining to the child’s training, protection, and relationships within the state. The third method arises if all other states having jurisdiction decline to exercise it, while the fourth is jurisdiction that is conferred because no other state has jurisdiction under the first three grounds.

In the subject case, the appellate court found that the trial court had significant connections jurisdiction over the matter, as she and the child had strong connections with the state, and there was substantial evidence in the state regarding the child’s relationships, care, and protection. As such, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to an Experienced California Family Law Attorney

Court orders can drastically impact parental rights, but if a court lacks jurisdiction over a matter, there may be grounds for vacating an unfavorable ruling. If you are dealing with a dispute over child custody, it is smart to speak to an attorney. The experienced San Diego family law attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC can advise you of what measures you can take to protect your interests and aid you in pursuing the best legal result available under the facts of your case. We have an office in San Diego, and we regularly represent people in custody disputes in cities throughout San Diego County. You can contact us through our online form or by calling 800-769-4748 to set up a confidential and free meeting.



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