Barnae v. Barnae – Case Brief Summary (New Mexico)

In Barnae v. Barnae, 1997 NMCA 77, 943 P.2d 1036, 1041, 123 N.M. 583 (N.M. Ct. App.) cert. denied, 123 N.M. 446, 942 P.2d 189 (N.M. 1997), a biological mother, her two children, and her former domestic partner resided together in California for a number of years. After the relationship with the partner ended, the biological mother moved with the children to New Mexico.

The partner then filed an action in New Mexico seeking custody. In response, the biological mother returned to California and initiated a proceeding "seeking a determination of parental relationship and child custody there." 943 P.2d at 1038.

At the time, California did not grant standing to domestic partners who are not biological parents to claim parental rights, see id. at 1038-39.

While New Mexico "has held that a person in a situation similar to the partner made a colorable claim of standing to assert a legal right to some type of continuing relationship with the child." 943 P.2d at 1039.

The court held that the trial court did not err in finding that there was no available alternative forum other than New Mexico. The court reasoned that the fact that California courts at the very least do not grant standing to persons in the partner's position means that the California courts are closed to her. . . .

Here again, but for the fact that the partner's lack of standing to assert any parental rights in California foreclosed the possibility of another proceeding, the factors usually considered in addressing whether a forum is the most convenient favor California. However, the lack of standing in California deprives the parties of an adequate alternative forum in which to resolve the custody dispute. Id. at 1041.