First International Custody Case Under Maryland’s New Child Custody Jurisdiction Act

A child custody jurisdiction case on appeal to Maryland’s highest court reads like a law school final exam.

According to this Baltimore Daily Record article, the mother, father and child all lived in India from 1999 until 2002. Then the mother took the child away from India to the Baltimore metro area.

The father reportedly brought a child custody proceeding first, in India, within 6 months of the child’s removal from India. The mother later brought a child custody proceeding in Maryland, after living in Maryland with her son for six months.

India is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and no other treaty applies.

When the mother filed for custody there, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act was the applicable law of Maryland. Maryland has since adopted the newer Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

The Maryland trial court reportedly held that India had already validly exercised jurisdiction over the child by the time the mother filed suit in Maryland and, therefore, dismissed the mother’s suit there.

But an intermediate level appeals court overturned the dismissal of the mother’s Maryland case.

The key issue pressed on appeal is reported to be:

whether Maryland’s child custody jurisdiction statute requires Maryland to defer to India’s previous, presumably valid, exercise of jurisdiction in accordance with Indian law, if the mother was afforded due process of law, at least assuming that the child’s fundamental human rights would not be violated in India.

As the issue has apparently been framed narrowly on appeal (barring some unusual deviation from the uniform act in the version passed in Maryland), the answer likely should be yes.

Having said that, that still doesn’t necessarily mean that Maryland may not or should not exercise jurisdiction and proceed with the mother’s case. It just depends on all of the underlying facts of the case – and, arguably, on the status and posture of the case still pending in India, as well as the position of the judge presiding over the case in India.

It is unclear from the article whether the Maryland trial court delved that deep.