Unauthorized Relocation of Children and the UCCJEA in Arizona
In Mangan v. Mangan, John V. Mangan (Father) filed numerous petitions and motions regarding the failure of Deborah J. Mangan (Mother) to follow court orders providing for him to exercise his court-ordered parenting time.
After a petition for post-decree mediation, a petition to enforce parenting time, enforcement hearings, a petition to modify parenting time, custody and child support, and a motion to take possession of the children by force, Mother finally appeared telephonically for a return hearing on April 8, 2010. She had failed to appear for many of the prior hearings.
Temporary orders were issued requiring the parties to participate in a Parenting Conference, requiring Mother to provide Father with access to the parties children by telephone in addition to in-person parenting time, and ordering the exchanges of the children to occur in Flagstaff, Arizona. A status hearing was set for May 14, 2010, and a final trial date was set for August 2, 2010.
On April 20, 2010, Mother filed an accelerated motion to transfer child custody jurisdiction, pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, based on her argument that the children had been residing in New Mexico since April 2008. In the motion to transfer, she challenged the family court’s jurisdiction. The court denied the motion. The court noted that the mere passage of time could not undermine the Court’s home state jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”).
At the temporary orders status hearing on May 14, 2010, the court issued various temporary orders to ensure Father received his court-ordered parenting time. By the end of August 2010, the court had conducted two additional hearings concluding by reaffirming Arizona as the home state of the children, declaring the court had not relinquished its jurisdiction over the children, denying Mother’s motions and petitions, ordering joint legal custody with Father having primary residential custody, and awarded attorney’s fees to the Father.
In June 2010, Mother filed for an Order of Protection and made allegations of abuse and improper conduct against Father. She made allegations that he failed to pay child support and made misrepresentations to the court. She sought increased child support and sanctions. The Order of Protection was quashed on June 25, 2010, due to a lack of evidence.
On appeal, Mother argued that the family court erred in their decision that Arizona retained jurisdiction over the matters at hand. The Arizona Court of Appeals finds no error in the decision of the family court regarding jurisdiction. Mother herself designated Arizona the “home state” when filing for divorce.
She and the children moved back to Arizona two years later. She invoked the jurisdiction of the Arizona court system when it was convenient to her. Mother did not seek to utilize the provided statutory mechanism to request relocating with the children. Instead, she left with the children, evaded service, was found in contempt by the Arizona family court judge for failing to appear and failing to adhere to the custody and parenting time agreement.
While in New Mexico, Mother and the children continued to relocate and continued to be found in contempt of court by the Arizona judge. This signifies a “significant” connection with the state of Arizona. Additionally, Father resides in the state of Arizona. He pays child support from employment in Arizona, he provides health insurance through his Arizona employer, and he has kept in touch with the families of the children’s friends in the Phoenix area.
While evidence exists in New Mexico in connection the children’s care, protection, training, etc. It also exists in Arizona. Father asserts (and Mother does not dispute) that no other court has sought jurisdiction over the children. Mother did not seek to invoke jurisdiction in the New Mexico court system. She actually utilized the Arizona court system regarding the children on a number of occasions.
The mother may not use her unauthorized conduct (i.e., moving the children to New Mexico without the consent of Father or the Court) that resulted in time spent out of state with the children to undermine Arizona’s home state jurisdiction. The Arizona Court of Appeals finds that the family court did not err when it concluded it retained exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over the child custody orders. The Arizona Court of Appeals, therefore, affirmed the family court’s child custody orders.