Generally the DC Courts are inclined to confer and extend jurisdiction to litigants rather than declining it.
This blog details some of original, continuing, and non-conventional child custody jurisdictional parameters and scope.
Initial child-custody jurisdiction
District has jurisdiction to make an initial child-custody determination under one of the three criteria:
1 ) The District 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 if the child is currently absent from the District, a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in the District.
2) A court of another state does not have jurisdiction or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that the District is the more appropriate forum and:
- The child and the child’s parents, or the child and at least one parent or a person acting as a parent, have a significant connection with the District other than mere physical presence; and
- Substantial evidence is available in the District concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships;
3) All other courts having jurisdiction under paragraph (1) or (2) have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that a court of the District is the more appropriate forum.
Exclusive, continuing jurisdiction
The DC courts will have exclusive, continuing jurisdiction over the case until and unless essentially the initial child custody jurisdiction elements are no longer present in that:
- A court of the District determines that neither the child, nor the child and one parent, nor the child and any person acting as a parent have a significant connection with the District and that substantial evidence is no longer available in the District concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships; or
- A court of the District or a court of another state determines that the child, the child’s parents, and any person acting as a parent do not presently reside in the District.
Temporary emergency jurisdiction
The DC courts will exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is present in the District and the child has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, or a sibling or parent of the child, is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.
DC an Inconvenient forum
A DC Court otherwise having jurisdiction under one of the elements listed above may reluctantly decline to exercise jurisdiction if it is determined that it is an inconvenient forum under the circumstances and that a court of another state is a more appropriate forum. This is a rare occurrence though.
To defer to another jurisdiction or State, the DC courts will consider facts and evidence under the following categories in determining if DC is deemed to be an inconvenient forum:
- Whether domestic violence has occurred and is likely to continue in the future and which state could best protect the parties and the child;
- The length of time the child has resided outside the District;
- The distance between the court in the District and the court in the state that would assume jurisdiction;
- The relative financial circumstances of the parties;
- Any agreement of the parties as to which state should assume jurisdiction;
- The nature and location of the evidence required to resolve the pending litigation, including testimony of the child;
- The ability of the court of each state to decide the issue expeditiously and the procedures necessary to present the evidence; and
- The familiarity of the court of each state with the facts and issues in the pending litigation.
Warrant to take physical custody of child
The DC courts may also utilize the application of a warrant to seize a child in imminent danger. That is, a petitioner may file an application for the issuance of a warrant to take physical custody of the child if the child is imminently likely to suffer serious physical harm or be removed from the District. The petitioner will be granted in an extraordinary circumstances and only if the evidence presented in support thereof is coherent, compelling and more importantly harm imminent.
For more information on the DC Child Custody Laws and jurisprudence refer to our DC Child Custody Lawyer page.