Defining Residency for Jurisdiction is Very Important

Daughter was born in Miami, Florida in June of 2011. She, her Mother and Father moved to Twentynine Palms, California in April of 2012. Sometime in the spring of 2013, Mother took Daughter to Miami, Florida for a visit with Mother’s family. By June of 2013, when Mother had not returned with Daughter, Father went to court to codify his legal rights to Daughter. He also requested the California court recognize jurisdiction over Daughter and Mother because of the time they spent in California. Mother’s attorney filed a response to Father’s requests stating that neither she nor Daughter were residents of the state of California. Both Mother and Daughter had lived in Florida Daughter’s entire life, even though they came out to California for a few weeks at a time to visit with Father. Father told the court that Mother was lying about her residency in Florida. To prove it, he provided documentation to the Riverside County Court showing Mother’s attempt to get child support for her son from a previous relationship.

In the hearing that followed, both Mother and Father put on witnesses showing their side of the argument. Mother’s witnesses said she lived in Florida and merely visited for a few weeks at a time in California. Father’s witnesses stated that Mother and Daughter lived with Father in California, and Mother even enrolled her son in the local California elementary school. Father also testified that Mother returned to Florida in March 2013, for surgery, but he knew she was returning because she left all of her personal belongings in their Twentynine Palms home.

Mother’s attorney argued that the court could not find California residency jurisdiction for Mother and Daughter under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), because neither had full residency in California during the six months before Father filed his petition. He also argued that since California did not have jurisdiction, and Mother and Daughter had now lived in Florida for the past four months, they both had significant connection with that state and Florida should accept jurisdiction.

Father’s attorney countered with Mother’s attorney by arguing that the 13 months Mother and Daughter had spent in California (even with short family-visit intervals in Florida) created their residency status in California. To do otherwise, would encourage parents to move to states more friendly to their point of view, while telling the other parents that they were merely going to visit in the other states.

The court determined that Mother and Daughter had lived in California from June of 2012 until March of 2013, even if Mother and Daughter took trips during that time to Florida. However, the court ruled that the six-month residency for jurisdiction was measured backward from the date of filing the petition. Thus, because Mother and Daughter had been living in Florida for four of those six months, there was no California state jurisdiction. With no California jurisdiction, the court could not hear Father’s case for his parental rights.

Father appealed.

The Appellate Court agreed with Father. Since residency had been established originally by Mother, Father and Daughter, and Father continued to reside in California when he filed his petition, California had jurisdiction of Mother and Daughter as well.

Jurisdictional issues are very technical and complicated and should be handled by a family law professional to ensure a fair and just result.

Categories: Child Custody
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