UCCJEA Revisited

4/2's opinion today in Schneer v. Llaurado (E060040 Dec. 9, 2015) plows the always-fertile ground of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). It includes useful discussions of appellate procedure and the standard of review, as well as the substance of the law, to the extent a procedural jurisdiction statute has "substance."

Premature Notice of Appeal

First, the Court reaffirms a premature notice of appeal is valid, which is important in family law cases in which the court rules then directs counsel for a party to prepare a formal notice of ruling or order. This frequently serves as a vehicle for the successful counsel to attempt to evade appellate review by delaying the preparation of that order. Here, the minute order was September 17, 2013, but the written orders were not entered until May 1, 2014.

This writer has no knowledge of the reason for the delay in that case, but merely mentions what may have occurred in other cases. In doubtful cases, a notice of appeal should be filed within 60 days of the ruling.

Jurisdictional Questions

Second, the Court includes an illuminating discussion of the standard of review of "jurisdictional" questions. Here, the court disagrees with other authority which indicates a reviewing court may reweigh jurisdictional facts, as opposed to a jurisdictional conclusion of law, drawn from those facts.

Although this may remove an arrow from an appellant's quiver, this does seem to make sense. (Until, of course, I need to argue the inverse.)

Six-Month Residency

Finally, the Court discusses the problem of an interrupted "six-month" residency and whether or not the six months need be those immediately prior to the filing of the petition.

The couple had resided in California for at least six months, but mother had departed to Florida with the child for "almost four months" before father filed his petition. The Court explained this could not defeat jurisdiction because father continued to live in California during that time.

This, too, makes sense. Once a state is a child's "home state" the newly-custodial parent should not be permitted to negate that by periodic absences. In a peripatetic society blessed with $200 cross-country airfares, this decision should foster necessary stability in the acrimonious world of child custody litigation.