ILNews

Child's 'home state' rules jurisdiction

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today Indiana courts have jurisdiction to modify custody agreements originally made in another state, as long as Indiana is considered the "home state" of the subject child.

In the case, In Re: The Marriage of Barbara Kenda and Boris Pleskovic, 71A03-0701-CV-34, Kenda, the mother of A.P.K., appealed a custody modification order awarding Pleskovic, the child's father, custody of A.P.K. Kenda contends the trial court in Indiana did not have jurisdiction to modify and abused its discretion in modifying the custody agreement when it awarded sole legal and primary physical custody of A.P.K. to Pleskovic.

The parents of A.P.K. were divorced in 2002, while residing in the District of Columbia. The D.C. court ordered the mother to have sole physical custody and the parties to have joint legal custody of A.P.K.; the court also granted the father parenting time.

During the next few years, Kenda relocated several times, including to South Bend in August 2002 to become a professor at the University of Notre Dame. Until the summer of 2005, Pleskovic made arrangements to visit the child and often would take care of A.P.K. when Kenda was busy with work or sick. In the summer of 2005, after Pleskovic returned from a trip with A.P.K. to Slovenia, the mother refused to allow Pleskovic to have unsupervised parenting time because of the child's behavioral changes. Pleskovic received a letter from Kenda's attorney in Washington, D.C., informing him to hire an attorney and he was not to speak with Kenda about visitation.

In October 2005, Kenda filed a motion in St. Joseph Superior Court to modify non-custodial parenting time. The motion also noted the court had jurisdiction to modify the custody agreement pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act and Indiana Code 31-17-3 because Indiana is the child's "home state" and the child and his mother have a significant connection to Indiana and there is available evidence in the state concerning the child's present and future care, protection, and relationships.

The father filed a petition for modification of custody, parenting time, and child support and request for custody evaluation. The doctor who conducted the evaluation recommended the mother have physical custody of A.P.K.

The mother filed a notice of intent to move to London, England, in May 2006 with A.P.K. On May 5, 2006, the trial court granted father's petition to prohibit the child from leaving St. Joseph County without a court order, so the mother left the child with a family friend while she relocated to London to begin a new job.

During a visit with the mother in London, she enrolled the child in school and tried to prevent the child from going back to the U.S., which spawned numerous court filings in Indiana and England. The father filed an emergency petition for change of custody, which the Indiana trial court granted.

The Court of Appeals cites the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act and Indiana Code 31-17-3, in upholding the jurisdiction of Indiana courts to modify the custody order. Both parties have actively participated in proceedings in the court regarding the custody of the child and at the time the mother filed her original petition to modify the agreement, Indiana was her home state. The point of the UCCJA is to prevent parents from seeking favorable custody agreements in different jurisdictions. The Court of Appeals wrote the mother was not entitled to a reversal based on jurisdiction simply to "shop" for a more favorable forum.

In terms of the mother's appeal on the custody modification, a court may not modify a custody order unless it's in the child's best interest and there is a substantial change in one of several factors, such as the wishes of the child's parent or parents, the mental or physical health of all individuals involved, and evidence of domestic or family violence by either parent. The trial court noted a "substantial change in the relationship among the parties has occurred since the entry of the [Divorce] Decree", and that the mother's willful rebellion against the trial court's orders did play a significant part in the reasons for modifying custody. Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote in the 18-page opinion, "Fostering a child's relationship with the noncustodial parent is an important factor bearing on the child's best interest, and ideally, a child should have a well-founded relationship with each parent. When the custodial parent denies visitation rights to the other parent without evidence that the noncustodial parent is a threat to the child, it may be proper based upon these circumstances for the trial court to modify custody."
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  1. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  2. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  3. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  4. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  5. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

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