New York Court Discusses Jurisdiction Over Custody Matters

When co-parents cannot agree on how to divide custody rights, they will often turn to the courts to resolve their disputes. In any custody action filed in New York, the court’s driving concern is what is in the child’s best interest. The courts can only issue rulings in cases in which they can properly exercise jurisdiction, however. Thus, if a court issues a custody order in a case that falls outside of its jurisdiction, it may be vacated, as demonstrated in a recent ruling issued by a New York court. If you need help defining or protecting your parental rights, it is wise to consult a  New York child custody attorney to discuss your options.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the mother and father married in Albania in 2014. They then moved to New Jersey and, in 2016, had a child. The following year, during a visit to Albania, the father filed for divorce. The mother and child subsequently relocated to New York while the father stayed in New Jersey. Courts in both New Jersey and Albania issued orders regarding custody arrangements and parenting time.

Allegedly, in 2019, the mother filed a petition in a New York court seeking a modification of the custodial terms and asserting concerns for the child’s safety. The court temporarily suspended the father’s parenting time, but after an investigation deemed the concerns to be unfounded, the court lifted the suspension. In October 2020, the father filed a petition in the New York Court seeking a modification to his scheduled parenting time. The parties ultimately entered into an agreement, which was reduced to a written order. The mother then appealed.

Jurisdiction Over Custody Matters

On appeal, the mother argued that the New York court lacked jurisdiction to issue the order on appeal. The father conceded that the New Jersey court had jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination in 2018 and that, pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, New Jersey retained jurisdiction because the father continued to reside there. As such, the sole question on appeal was whether the New York court had the authority to modify the New Jersey order.

The court explained that before modifying a custody determination from another state, a New York court must have jurisdiction to make the initial determination. Further, the court of the other state must determine that it no longer has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction or that a court of New York would be a more convenient forum.

Here, although the child lived in New York since 2018, there was no indication that the New Jersey court surrendered its jurisdiction or that it ruled that New York would be a more convenient forum. Additionally, the record did not show that the New York court communicated with the New Jersey court to determine which state had subject matter jurisdiction. Thus, New York lacked jurisdiction to modify the order in question. The court, therefore, vacated the order.

Meet with a Trusted New York Child Custody Attorney

The New York courts take great care when issuing orders defining parental rights, but circumstances can change over time, and an order that was once appropriate may need to be modified. If you are subject to a child custody order that you wish to change, it is smart to meet with a lawyer to assess your options. Ksenia Rudyuk is a trusted New York child custody attorney who can advise you of your rights and aid you in seeking just results. You can reach Ms. Rudyuk through the form online or at 212-706-2001 to set up a meeting.

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