When It Comes to Child Custody Juridiction Disputes, Sometimes a Little Confusion Goes a Long Way

Sometimes, complex cases have to be oversimplified, to put the focus on the core that is of legal significance.

Other times, simple cases have to get made complicated, by a party looking to obscure and hide that core, behind a lot of irrelevant “stuff”. Unfortunately, sometimes that works.

Such a case was recently reported in the New Jersey Lawyer.

The parents were divorced in the Dominican Republic, where they had lived for several years. Both were represented by counsel there.

The mother and children remained in the Dominican Republic after the divorce, but the father returned to New Jersey.

When the children were with the father for summer visitation, the father filed for a modification of custody, seeking sole custody of the children.

Generally speaking, under the law of most (if not all) of the states in the US, once a state (or country) has exercised valid jurisdiction over a child, that state keeps jurisdiction. Period.

Of course, there can be changes of circumstances that will justify a change of jurisdiction. But none was alleged or applied in this particular case.

So the father reportedly made unsupported allegations of abuse and neglect by the mother, in an apparent attempt at obfuscation.

In response, the mother introduced a good deal of evidence to contradict those allegations. Further, a court appointed psychologist reportedly could not find any support for the allegations.

Good try, but case closed? Well, no.

The father also alleged that the mother was going to move the children to another country, Norway.

And, if and when that happened, then there would be no place that would have jurisdiction. So, his argument went, New Jersey should exercise jurisdiction based on those speculations.

But where things get really interesting is here. The New Jersey court ruled – quite correctly – that New Jersey did not have jurisdiction.

Yet, having so ruled, the NJ court, in effect, inexplicably proceeded to exercise jurisdiction, enjoin the removal of the children from New Jersey and order that the children’s passports be held by the father.

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. This case illustrates yet again that obfuscation really does work sometimes.

Fortunately, it was all straightened out on appeal, with the father’s case in New Jersey being dismissed.

If you’re up for some obfuscation, read more in this New Jersey Lawyer article: Custody plans issued abroad.