Family Law

At-a-Glance Contributor Sarah E. Lavoie Partner at Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin Dover, NH

At-a-Glance Contributor
Sarah E. Lavoie
Partner at: Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin Dover, NH

October 25, 2019

Vacated and Remanded

  • Whether the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction under RSA 458-A:14 to entertain a petition to modify or terminate an out of state guardianship order.

In 2017, the petitioner filed a petition to modify or terminate a 2010 Connecticut court order which granted guardianship over her daughter, K.B., to the respondents, K.B.’s paternal grandmother and step-grandfather. K.B. resided in New Hampshire with her guardians from 2008 until 2018, when they moved to Maine. At the time of her 2017 petition, the petitioner lived in Maine and alleged that K.B.’s father lived in Connecticut, although neither the petitioner nor the guardians had had any recent contact with him. The original Connecticut guardianship order dated April 13, 2010 held that in 6 months, New Hampshire would be the proper jurisdiction for reinstatement of parental guardianship because the child was a resident of New Hampshire. Thereafter, a Connecticut order dated July 8, 2010 vacated the April 2010 order and entered a new order granting the respondents guardianship over K.B. which did not contain the jurisdictional language of the vacated April 2010 order. In response to the petitioner’s 2017 petition to modify or terminate the guardianship, the respondent’s filed an answer and motion to dismiss. The trial court denied the petition concluding that the guardianship was permanent and not subject to modification under Connecticut law.

On appeal, the Court first determined whether the New Hampshire circuit court had subject matter jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). To resolve the jurisdictional issue, the Court interpreted the UCCJEA as it has been enacted in New Hampshire. The UCCJEA provides two types of jurisdiction, jurisdiction to make an initial child-custody determination and jurisdiction to modify a previous child-custody determination. Because neither of the requirements contained within RSA 458-A:14, I or II were satisfied, the Court found that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to modify the previous child-custody determination contained within the July 2010 Connecticut court order and therefore vacated the trial court’s order and remanded with instructions to dismiss the petition.

Hansen Law Offices, of Kennebunk, Maine (Albert Hansen on the brief and orally), for the petitioner. Orr & Reno, of Concord (Jeremy Eggleton on the brief and orally) for the respondents.