California Subject Matter Jurisdiction In Custody Disputes

In California, the Uniform Act is the exclusive method of determining the court's subject matter jurisdiction in custody disputes involving different states or countries. (In re Stephanie M. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 295, 310 holding under the former Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act or UCCJA; In re Marriage of Sareen, supra, 153 Cal.App.4th at p. 376; see Sarah B. v. Floyd B. (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 938, 944-945.) Under the Uniform Act, a "child custody determination" is a "judgment, decree, or other order of a court providing for the legal custody, physical custody, or visitation with respect to a child" including a permanent, temporary, initial, and modification order. (Fam. Code, 3402, subd. (c).) A proceeding to establish paternity is considered a "child custody proceeding" for purposes of the Uniform Act. (See Fam. Code, 3402, subd. (d); Sarah B. v. Floyd B., at p. 928, fn. 7.) However, a child custody determination under the Uniform Act "does not include an order relating to child support or other monetary obligation of an individual." (Fam. Code, 3402, subd. (c).) This statutory language is clear and unambiguous: it expressly excludes such financial support issues from the purview of the Uniform Act. (Accord, In re Marriage of Fitzgerald & King, supra, 39 Cal.App.4th at p. 1429 deciding whether mother's stay away agreement was related to child custody or visitation, which is properly considered under the Uniform Act, or "more like a financial support issue, which would bring the case outside the Uniform Act".) Because it would thwart the statute's purpose of providing a forum to resolve custody issues, jurisdiction under the Uniform Act does not require personal jurisdiction over a nonresident parent. (In re Marriage of Fitzgerald & King, supra, 39 Cal.App.4th at p. 1428; see also In re Marriage of Newsome (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 949, 954, fn. 2.) Indeed, the Uniform Act "presupposes that a parent may participate in proceedings leading to custody or visitation determination without exposing himself or herself to the personal jurisdiction of the forum state court." (In re Marriage of Fitzgerald & King, at p. 1428; see e.g., In re Marriage of Malak, supra, 182 Cal.App.3d at p. 1023.) Family Code section 3409 codifies this principle: "A party to a child custody proceeding, including a modification proceeding, or a petitioner or respondent in a proceeding to enforce or register a child custody determination, is not subject a personal jurisdiction in this state for another proceeding or purpose solely by reason of having participated, or of having been physically present for the purpose of participating, in the proceeding." (Fam. Code, 3409, subd. (a).)