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
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
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.
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.