Maryland Court of Special Appeals Rules on Drexler v. Bornman

In the case of Drexler v. Bornman, an issue arose before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals concerning the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act i.e. the “Act”. The Act states that a court in a child’s home state (which is determined by where the child lived with the parent for at least six consecutive months, with temporary absences allowed) “has exclusive jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination.” This means that only the child’s home state courts can determine who gets child custody.

Facts

The defendant’s child was born in Indiana, where the child and parents resided for some time. The family then after 14 months moved back to Maryland where they lived for three years. Later, the mother and child moved back to Indiana where they lived for over a year. However, during this time,the mother moved her child back to Maryland, stating to her family that she and her child would stay there permanently. After a week in Maryland though, the mother moved back to Indiana with her child. The plaintiffs (who are the child’s maternal grandmother and maternal step-grandfather) then sought child custody contest.

Issue

The defendant responded that under the Act, Indiana was the child’s home state and thus had the sole jurisdiction to determine child’s custody. In an appeal, the plaintiffs argued that since the child’s mother moved back to Maryland with the stated intent of staying there, Maryland was the home state and not Indiana.

Decision

The Court found that the stay in Maryland fell under the requirement to be considered “a temporary absence” and thus did not violate the requirement for six consecutive months. The court made a special note at the length of time that the move took place, which was week. The duration of the stay was a vital factor in the Court’s decision. Regarding the intention argument, the Court stated that “Whether a State is a person’s domicile is primarily a question of that person’s intent; whether a State is a child’s‘home state’ is primarily a question of time.” The final factor was that the child’s mother took no formal steps to become a resident of the state of Maryland nor took any other actions that normally come with a person’s decision to move permanently into another state. Therefore, the week long stay was considered to be merely a ‘temporary absence’ from Indiana, his home state and so Indiana solely held jurisdiction regarding the child’s custody.