We live in a very transient society; particularly New Jersey. There is greater outbound traffic from New Jersey than any other State. The reasons for these moves may vary, but one thing remains constant: there are significant custodial considerations that parents, together and/or individually, should be aware of when considering an out-of-state relocation whether it is permanent or temporary.
That is precisely what occurred in Oluwafemi v. Oliade, an unpublished Appellate Division decision from January 6, 2023. In this case, Oluwafemi and Oliade are the biological parents of a child who was born in New Jersey in 2019. Oluwafemi filed a complaint seeking custody of the child and an order directing the child’s return to New Jersey from Minnesota, where the child had been living with Oliade since August 2020. Oluwafemi claimed that Oliade had promised to return the child to New Jersey in January 2021, but failed to do so and cut off communication with him in May 2021.
The Family Part granted temporary custody of the child to Oluwafemi and scheduled a hearing on the issue of jurisdiction. The court later determined it lacked jurisdiction over the parties’ multi-state custody dispute because New Jersey is not the child’s home state under the New Jersey Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The court’s decision was based on the parties’ submissions and a certification from Oliade stating that she and the child have lived in Minnesota since August 2020 and that the child is a resident of Minnesota.
Oluwafemi appealed the court’s decision, arguing that the record did not permit a proper determination of the child’s home state under the UCCJEA without a plenary hearing. The Appellate Division agreed and vacated the court’s order, remanding the case for further proceedings. In doing so, the Appellate Division stated:
To properly determine a child’s home state under the UCCJEA, “a Family Part judge must scrutinize the facts and make specific findings supporting the court’s assumption or rejection of subject matter jurisdiction.” Moreover, the determination of “[a]n inter-jurisdictional custody dispute must be subject to the analysis outlined in the UCCJEA,” and “[m]ore often than not, [the] determination requires a plenary hearing.”
In short, the Family Part rejected Oluwafemi’s claim that New Jersey is the child’s home state because the child resided in Minnesota with Oliade from August 2020 to the date Oluwafemi filed, June 17, 2021. Since the child was living in Minnesota “within six month of the commencement of the custody proceeding” pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-65(a)(1), Minnesota was the home State.
The Appellate Division held:
The court made those findings without considering, or making any findings, as to whether any time the child spent in Minnesota should be considered temporary for purposes of determining her home state under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-54.
As a result the matter is remanded for a plenary hearing, the Appellate Division stating there is
a need for a full evidentiary record to determine, whether defendant’s removal of the child from New Jersey and stay in Minnesota was temporary and, if so, whether at some point it was no longer temporary for purposes of determining the child’s home state under N.J.S.A.2A:34-54 and N.J.S.A. 2A:34-65(a)(1).
The precise nature of Oliade’s promises to return, her assurances and the circumstances under which they were made will be critical for a determination during the plenary hearing to determine the child’s home State. As this decision was unpublished, it is non-precedential. That being said, it offers important insight into how a Court may view an out-of-state move when determining whether New Jersey has jurisdiction for custody determinations.