UCCJEA: What to do when original state erroneously retains continuing jurisdicition? Ky Court of Appeals Published Opinion

BALL V. MCGOWAN

A Nevada court entered a custody order, after which child and Father moved to Kentucky. Child did not return to Nevada after moving to Kentucky. Several years later, Mother filed an action for custody in Nevada, while Father filed an action for custody in Kentucky. Pursuant to the UCCJEA, the Kentucky trial court contacted the Nevada trial court to determine whether or not Nevada retained exclusive, continuing jurisdiction over the custodial matter. Nevada, as the state that made the initial custody determination, claimed exclusive continuing jurisdiction over the matter. Thus, the Kentucky trial court dismissed the Kentucky case. Father appealed arguing the Kentucky trial court erred.

The Court of Appeals conducts a detailed UCCJEA analysis utilizing KRS 403.822 and the corresponding Nevada statute. The court concludes Nevada erred in claims exclusive, continuing jurisdiction as only one parent, and not the child, remained significantly connected to Nevada. However, as the UCCJEA makes the original state “the sole determinant of whether jurisdiction continues”, the Court of Appeals holds it is without the authority to disturb the Nevada court’s decision that it retained exclusive, continuing jurisdiction. 

The Court of Appeals continues its analysis, finding that under the UCCJEA, as set forth in KRS 403.834(1), the Kentucky court can request the Nevada court decline jurisdiction because it is an “inconvenient forum.” As the Kentucky trial court failed to request the Nevada court decline jurisdiction, the Court of Appeals affirms the trial court’s ruling that Nevada has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, but reverses the dismissal of the petition to allow the trial court to contact the Nevada court and request it decline jurisdiction.

Digested by Elizabeth M. Howell.