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Cheesman v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Michigan

June 18, 2015

KYLE CHEESMAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DANILIA THERESA WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellee

Page 386

Wayne Circuit Court, Family Division. LC No. 13-109854-DC.

For KYLE CHEESMAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT: CAROLYN J. JACKSON, BERKLEY, MI.

DANILIA THERESA WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE, PRO SE.

Before: MARKEY, P.J., and OWENS and GLEICHER, JJ.

OPINION

Page 387

[311 Mich.App. 149] Per Curiam.

Plaintiff appeals by right an order dismissing this child custody case. The issues raised on appeal relate to a previous order wherein the trial court declined to exercise jurisdiction over the instant case. We vacate those orders and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

This case arises out of a custody dispute involving KC, who was born to plaintiff and defendant on June 11, 2003. The parties were never married, but plaintiff and [311 Mich.App. 150] defendant executed an affidavit of parentage on June 13, 2003, listed plaintiff's name on KC's birth certificate, and continuously held out KC as plaintiff's daughter. KC " lived jointly between" plaintiff and defendant until 2009, when defendant was incarcerated. After defendant's release, KC remained in Detroit, Michigan, until 2011, when she moved to Ohio with defendant. Between 2011 and 2013, KC moved from Ohio to Georgia and back to Ohio with defendant, but she visited plaintiff in Michigan during the summer and school breaks. It appears that the trial court dismissed this case on the basis of its conclusion that Michigan did not have jurisdiction, and, even if did, Michigan constituted an inconvenient forum.

Plaintiff first argues on appeal that the trial court abused its discretion when it failed to exercise jurisdiction under the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), MCL 722.1101 et seq. We agree, but only to the extent that we conclude that the trial court failed to fully consider whether it had jurisdiction under the UCCJEA.

Absent a factual dispute, this Court reviews de novo, as a question of law, whether a trial court has jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. Foster v Wolkowitz, 486 Mich. 356, 362; 785 N.W.2d 59 (2010). But even if a court may exercise jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, the decision do so is " 'within the discretion of the trial court, and [will] not be reversed absent an abuse of that discretion.'" Nash v Salter, 280 Mich.App. 104, 108; 760 N.W.2d 612 (2008)(citation omitted). " Generally, an appellate court should defer to the trial court's judgment, and if the trial court's decision results in an outcome within the range of principled outcomes, it has not abused its discretion." Jamil v Jahan, 280 Mich.App. 92, 100; 760 N.W.2d 266 (2008). Additionally, [311 Mich.App. 151] " [t]he clear legal error standard applies where the trial court errs in its choice, interpretation, or application of the existing law." Foskett v Foskett, 247 Mich.App. 1, 4-5; 634 N.W.2d 363 (2001).

Page 388

This Court reviews issues of statutory construction de novo. Nash, 280 Mich.App. at 108.

The UCCJEA " prescribes the powers and duties of the court in a child-custody proceeding involving [Michigan] and a proceeding or party outside of this state . . . ." Fisher v Belcher, 269 Mich.App. 247, 260; 713 N.W.2d 6 (2005). Because it is undisputed that defendant resides outside Michigan, this case requires the interpretation and application of the UCCJEA. This Court previously summarized rules of statutory interpretation in a case in which it interpreted the jurisdictional provisions of the UCCJEA:

The primary goal of statutory interpretation is to give effect to the intent of the Legislature. This determination is accomplished by examining the plain language of the statute itself. If the statutory language is unambiguous, appellate courts presume that the Legislature intended the meaning plainly expressed and further judicial construction is neither permitted nor required. Under the plain-meaning rule, courts must give the ordinary and accepted meaning to the mandatory word " shall" and the permissive word " may" unless to do so would frustrate the legislative intent as evidenced by other statutory language or by reading the statute as a whole. [ Atchison v Atchison, 256 Mich.App. 531, 535; 664 N.W.2d 249 (2003) (citations omitted).]

MCL 722.1201(1) is the " exclusive jurisdictional basis for making a child-custody determination by a court of this state." MCL 722.1201(2). MCL 722.1201(1) provides:

[311 Mich.App. 152] Except as otherwise provided in [MCL 722.1204], [which concerns temporary emergency jurisdiction,] a court of this state has jurisdiction to make an initial child-custody determination only in the following situations:
(a) This state is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding, or was the home state of the child within 6 months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from this state but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in this state.
(b) A court of another state does not have jurisdiction under subdivision (a), or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this state is the more appropriate forum under section 207 or 208, and the court finds both of the following:
( i ) The child and the child's parents, or the child and at least 1 parent or a person acting as a parent, have a significant connection with this state other than mere physical presence.
( ii ) Substantial evidence is available in this state concerning the child's care, protection, training, ...

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