MILLER, P. J., DOYLE, P. J., and REESE, J.
Miller, Presiding Judge.
case, we must determine whether a Georgia trial court had
jurisdiction over a petition requesting custody of two minor
children under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and
Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA"), OCGA §
19-9-61. While visiting family in Georgia from
Michigan, Chelsey Bowman filed a complaint seeking custody of
her minor children from her husband and the children's
father, Luke Bowman. The trial court concluded that it had
jurisdiction over the petition pursuant to the UCCJEA. Luke
sought interlocutory review, which this Court granted. We now
conclude that the trial court erred in finding that
jurisdiction was proper here.
we reverse the trial court's order and remand for the
trial court to dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction.
review a question of subject-matter jurisdiction de novo.
Kogel v. Kogel, 337 Ga.App. 137, 140 (786 S.E.2d
518) (2016). So viewed, we begin with a recounting of this
case's complicated procedural history. Luke and Chelsey
married in Georgia in 2009. Their son was born in Georgia in
2011. In 2012, the family moved to Michigan, and their
daughter was born there in 2013. For approximately one year,
the family moved around Michigan. They then moved to
Wisconsin for Luke's job, and they remained there for a
year. When Luke's job ended, he moved to Indiana, and
Chelsey remained in Wisconsin until the lease on their home
terminated. At that time, Chelsey and the children returned
to Michigan in October 2015, where they stayed with different
members of Luke's family for one month.
November 2015, Luke and Chelsey brought the children to
Georgia to visit Chelsey's family for Thanksgiving. The
parties agree that the plan was for Chelsey and the children
to return to the midwest after the holiday. However, after
Luke left Georgia, Chelsey became concerned that he had
engaged in an extra-marital affair, and she immediately filed
an ex parte motion in Georgia for custody of the children. In
December 2015, the trial court granted temporary custody to
moved to vacate the ex parte order, arguing that the Georgia
court lacked jurisdiction to enter the custody award because
the children had no significant connection to Georgia.
Chelsey opposed the motion, and both parties submitted
numerous affidavits to show the ties the children had in
Michigan and Georgia.
trial court held a hearing in Georgia in January 2016 to
address the issue of jurisdiction. Shortly before that
hearing, Luke filed for divorce in Michigan.
February 2016, a Michigan trial court also held a hearing to
determine which state was the proper jurisdiction for the
custody dispute. The Michigan court heard testimony from Luke
and Chelsey, as well as Luke's mother. After considering
the family ties in each state, the Michigan court concluded
that there was no basis for that state to exercise
jurisdiction. Luke filed an appeal of the Michigan
court's decision and also moved to dismiss the Georgia
trial court's order. When the case returned to the trial
court in Georgia, the trial court held the case in abeyance
pending the outcome of the Michigan appeal.
October 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued its
decision upholding the determination that jurisdiction was
proper in Georgia, but remanding because the trial court
failed to communicate with the Georgia court before reaching
its decision. The parties then returned to court in Georgia
in December 2016, at which time the trial court spoke with
the judge in Michigan and they agreed that jurisdiction was
proper in Georgia. During that hearing, the parties
stipulated that neither Michigan nor Georgia was the
children's "home state, " under the UCCJEA, and
both the Michigan and Georgia judges agreed that the children
had a significant connection to both states. The Georgia
trial court also considered whether Chelsey had improperly
filed the ex parte motion for custody and found that she had
not done so. The trial court then reinstated its ruling
finding that it had jurisdiction under OCGA § 19-9-61
(a) (2) and (a) (4), and made a blanket statement that the
children had a significant connection with the state that
warranted the exercise of jurisdiction. This interlocutory
three interrelated enumerations or error, Luke argues that
the trial court erred in exercising jurisdiction over the
custody dispute because (1) the ex parte order failed to meet
the standard for conferring emergency jurisdiction; (2) the
trial court ignored evidence of Chelsey's misconduct in
filing the emergency petition; and (3) the trial court failed
to consider which state had the more significant connection
to the children. After a thorough review of the record, we
find that the trial court failed to make the requisite
factual findings before concluding that it had jurisdiction.
first argues that the trial court erred in exercising
emergency jurisdiction because there was no basis to grant
such relief under OCGA § 19-9-64. We find no reversible
Under OCGA § 19-9-64 (a), the trial court may exercise
emergency jurisdiction when "the child is present in
this state 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." Generally, to
exercise jurisdiction under this statute, there must be an
immediate danger of harm or abuse. See Prabnarong v.
Oudomhack, 334 Ga.App. 723, 726 (780 S.E.2d 393) (2015).
under the UCCJEA, a trial court has jurisdiction to make an
"initial custody determination" if certain
jurisdictional requirements are met. OCGA § 19-9-61 (a).
The term "initial determination" is defined as
"the first child custody determination concerning a
particular child." See OCGA § 19-9-41 (8).
even if there was no basis for emergency jurisdiction under
§ 19-9-64, given that no other state had a pending
custody petition before it, the trial court properly
considered whether it had jurisdiction under OCGA §
19-9-61. Any error in considering the emergency custody
motion is rendered moot by the trial court's subsequent
ruling on the jurisdictional question. Delgado v.
Combs, 314 Ga.App. 419, 421 (1) (724 S.E.2d 436) (2012).
Luke argues, however, that Chelsey's alleged misconduct
in invoking emergency jurisdiction required the trial court
to decline to exercise jurisdiction regardless of whether the
jurisdictional prerequisites of the UCCJEA were met and that
the trial court erred in failing to consider evidence of her
the trial court found that Chelsey did not engage in any
misconduct, and we must defer to that factual finding.
Parke v. Fant, 260 Ga.App. 84, 86 (2) (578 S.E.2d
896) (2003). Moreover, our conclusion in Division 1 (a) that
the Georgia trial court could consider the initial custody
determination regardless of the emergency petition
essentially renders Chesley's conduct irrelevant, and we
need not consider whether the trial court reviewed Luke's
evidence of Chesley's alleged misconduct. Furthermore,
even if there had been some misconduct, the UCCJEA does not
require a court to decline to exercise jurisdiction
where, as here, both the Michigan court and the Georgia court
expressly determined that jurisdiction in Georgia was the
more appropriate and convenient forum. Therefore,
assuming that Georgia had jurisdiction, the trial court was
not required to decline to exercise that jurisdiction.
thus turn to whether the trial court properly exercised
jurisdiction under the UCCJEA after finding that the children
had more significant connections to Georgia than to Michigan.
We now conclude that the trial court erred.
UCCJEA sets forth the circumstances in which a court of this
state has jurisdiction to make an initial custody