NC COA: Termination of Parental Rights, In re D.A.Y.

By Jessica B. Heffner

Termination of Parental Rights, COA18-1226, In re D.A.Y., June 18, 2019, Stanly County

Petitioner-Father, a resident of Stanly County, North Carolina, filed a termination of parental rights action in Stanly County against Respondent-Mother, a resident of Ventura County, California.  Petitioner alleged the parties’ child lived with him in Stanly County, pursuant to a California custody order, such that North Carolina is the “home state” of the child.  Petition further alleged that said California custody order terminated California’s ongoing jurisdiction by its own terms.  Petitioner alleged that though Respondent is currently a California resident (as she was when the California custody order was entered), she temporarily relocated to Nevada which also terminated California’s jurisdiction.  The trial court in Stanly County entered an order which terminated Respondent’s parental rights.  Respondent appealed arguing the North Carolina court did not have subject matter jurisdiction under the UCCJEA to enter its order.  The Court of Appeals agreed.

The North Carolina court was not authorized to modify the California order unless it had initial custody determination jurisdiction AND either (1) California determined that it no longer had exclusive, continuing jurisdiction or that North Carolina is a more convenient forum OR (2) California or North Carolina determined that the child and the parties no longer presently reside in California.  See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50A-203(1)-(2).  The North Carolina court has “initial custody determination jurisdiction” but the second step of the analysis fails.  California did not terminate its jurisdiction in the California order, and there is no determination by either court that California lost exclusive, continuing jurisdiction or that North Carolina was a more convenient forum.  Respondent’s temporary move to Nevada (and subsequent return to California) before Petitioner’s filing did not terminate California’s jurisdiction.  The North Carolina order must therefore be vacated and the case remanded for dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.