Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Case Law Development: Home State of Children of Military Parents

The Missouri Court of Appeals provides an opinion reversing a default judgment of child custody and child support for lack of jurisdiction under the UCCJA that provides a fairly straightforward problem for students to observe the operation of the UCCJA.

Mother lived in Missouri.  She entered the military in 1986 and has lived on military posts for most of the time since, but continued to maintain her domicile in Missouri.  Mother's children were born in New York in 1995 and 1996.  In 2002, Family visits grandparents in Missouri while Mother is on leave en route to new assignment in Virginia.   In 2004, Mother and Father separate.  Mother files for and obtains a full order of protection in Virginia against Father. Both continue to live in Virginia.  In August of that year, Mother files for divorce in Missouri.  Trial court grants a default judgment, granting Mother custody and ordering child support.  The court of appeals reverses, on the basis of some fairly well-established principles of jurisdiction:

  • UCCJA bases for jurisdiction are in preferential order
  • Mothers legal "residency" in Missouri was not a basis for the home state determination, as home state is premised on the physical, not legal, residency of the children.
  • Mother's significant connections with the state do not provide an alternative basis for jurisdiction, as the court must consider the children's connection with the state (which must be "equal or stronger than" those to the home state in order to provide an alternate basis for jurisdiction)
  • Virginia had clearly not declined jurisdiction, as the issuance of the protective order demonstrated.

Miller v. Sumpter, 2006 Mo. App. LEXIS 1147 (July 31, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited August 1, 2006 bgf)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2006/08/case_law_develo_3.html

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