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Name: In re E.W.
Case #: B295083
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 07/29/2019

The California court which issued custody orders involving the minor had exclusive, continuing jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. Mother and father were divorced. Under a Family Court order issued in California in 2014, the parents shared joint legal custody of the minor. The minor lived with mother in South Carolina, and spent nine weeks during the summers with father in Los Angeles. During a visit to Los Angeles, the minor disclosed allegations of physical abuse by mother. The juvenile court in Los Angeles declared the minor a dependent, removed him from mother, released him to father, and terminated jurisdiction with a custody order giving father sole legal and physical custody. The court ordered no visitation with mother. On appeal, mother claimed that under the UCCJEA, the court had no jurisdiction to make the orders because California was not the child’s “home state” under the UCCJEA when the dependency proceeding began, as he had not lived in California for the six months prior to the initiation of the dependency action. The appellate court rejected the argument and affirmed. The UCCJEA takes a strict first in time approach to jurisdiction. Once the court has made a child custody determination, that court has exclusive continuing jurisdiction. Here, the dependency action was not the “initial child custody determination.” An Orange County court made the original custody order in 2014, and there were no conditions requisite for termination of California’s exclusive continuing jurisdiction.