Friday, June 9, 2006
The Connecticut Court of Appeals has examined the doctrine of forum non conveniens and subject matter jurisdiction in custody modification actions involving international families. This case involved a couple who were divorced in Connecticut and moved to Japan. After disputes in Japan regarding Mother's visitation, Mother moved back to Connecticut and filed a motion to modify the parenting arrangements and for contempt. The trial court dismissed the case without a hearing, on the basis of forum non conveniens and lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the UCCJEA.
The court of appeals reversed. The court noted that regarding the forum non conveniens decision, the applicable law was the common law rather than the UCCJEA. In enacting the UCCJEA, Connecticut had eliminated that portion of the model act that extended the definition of "state" to include foreign countries. However, even under common law forum non conveniens rules, the court noted, a hearing is necessary.
Likewise, in determining if the trial court had exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, the court of appeals held that a hearing was necessary. The jurisdictional issue involves questions of fact such as whether Connecticut was the children's home state when the modification motion was filed and whether Mother had a significant connection with the state, not just Japan. Due process, the court explained, required a trial-like hearing to determine these factual issues on which questions of jurisdiction depended.
Temlock v. Temlock, 95 Conn. App. 505 (May 23, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited June 8, 2006 bgf)