FAMILY LAW—INCONENIENT FORUM ISSUE

At-a-Glance Contributor James Allmendinger, A sole practitioner in Durham, NH

9th Circuit Court-Nashua Family Division No. 2017-0518
August 10, 2018

Reversed and remanded

  • Whether the family court should have relinquished jurisdiction over a parenting plan when the mother and child relocated to another state.

The petitioner, the father, and the respondent, the mother, are the unmarried parents of a four-year old child. They agreed on a parenting plan when both resided in New Hampshire. The mother then relocated to California, with the family court’s permission. Thereafter, the mother moved to Indiana, but without the court’s permission.

The father, concerned about the child’s welfare, petitioned for a new parenting plan in the New Hampshire court. The mother filed a separate request in an Indiana court. The New Hampshire marital master found that both states retained jurisdiction, but that two factors made the Indiana court the proper forum: the child’s more substantial connection to Indiana and the fact that evidence relating to the welfare of the child was mostly located in Indiana.

On appeal, the Supreme Court disagreed strongly. The law in question, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), lists eight factors that must all be considered in determining the appropriate forum. Reviewing all eight factors, which the Court did at length, the Court concluded that the New Hampshire court should have retained jurisdiction over the parenting plan. Thus, the marital master’s failure to consider all eight issues in determining the appropriate forum was an abuse of discretion, and the New Hampshire court should have retained jurisdiction. “The [mother’s] filed of a competing custody petition in Indiana, without informing that court of New Hampshire’s exclusive, continuing jurisdiction, or of the petition pending in this state to modify the original custody order, is precisely the type of conduct that the UCCJEA was intended to deter.”

 

Catherine E. Shanelaris and Jennifer E. Warburton of Shanelaris & Schirch of Nashua on the brief, and Ms. Warburton orally, for the petitioner. Israel F. Piedra of Welts, White & Fontaine, of Nashua on the brief and orally, for the respondent.