IN THE INTEREST OF A. L. et al., minor children.
DILLARD, P. J., GOBEIL and HODGES, JJ.
appeal was filed by the appellant-mother, Allison Madourie,
to challenge the juvenile court's order dismissing her
motion seeking reunification and change of child custody
based on the court's determination that Georgia is an
inconvenient forum for adjudicating the claims. Because the
juvenile court failed to make specific findings on the record
demonstrating that it considered the eight factors in OCGA
§ 19-9-67 (b), and also erred by dismissing the motion,
we vacate the juvenile court's order and remand the case
for further proceedings consistent with the requirements of
OCGA § 19-9-67 (b) and (c).
record shows that Appellant is the mother of two minor
children, A. L. (born on November 1, 2010) and J. L. (born on
October 2, 2008). In January 2015, while the children resided
in Georgia, the Henry County Department of Family and
Children Services ("DFCS") filed a dependency
action in the Henry County Juvenile Court and the children
were removed from Appellant's custody. On June 17, 2015,
the juvenile court awarded temporary custody of the children
to their biological father. Shortly thereafter, the children
and their father moved to and became residents of
to the parties' agreement, Appellant exercised visitation
with the children at her residence in Georgia for two months
during summers and two weeks during the Christmas holidays.
On June 19, 2017, while the children were visiting in
Georgia, Appellant filed a "Motion for Reunification and
Change of Custody" in the juvenile court dependency
case. In support of the motion, Appellant requested that
several fact witnesses be allowed to testify remotely by
telephone or other video conferencing methods since they were
out of state and unable to appear personally at the hearing.
the hearing on Appellant's motion, the juvenile court
inquired into its own jurisdiction and ultimately declined to
exercise jurisdiction based upon its conclusion that Georgia
no longer was a convenient forum to resolve the issue. The
court noted that the children have lived, attended school,
and received counseling in Florida for more than two years;
most of the witnesses lived outside of Georgia; and, DFCS and
the guardian ad litem in Georgia did not have direct access
to review the children's school or counseling records and
home environment in Florida.
entry of the dismissal order, the instant appeal ensued.
Appellant asserts that the juvenile court erred in ruling
that Georgia is no longer a convenient forum and erred in
dismissing her motion on that basis.
motion relating to child custody fell within the purview of
the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
("UCCJEA"). See OCGA § 19-9-41 (4) (the
definition of a "child custody proceeding" under
the UCCJEA includes a child dependency proceeding in which
the issue of child custody may appear); In the Interest
of J. S. J., 253 Ga.App. 174, 177 (1) (558 S.E.2d 763)
(2002) (applying former definitions statute and ruling that
the UCCJEA governs a proceeding regarding child dependency in
which child custody is one of many issues). The juvenile
court's decision that it was an inconvenient forum is
thus governed by OCGA § 19-9-67 of the UCCJEA.
OCGA § 19-9-67 (a), "[a] court of this state which
has jurisdiction under [the UCCJEA] may decline to exercise
its jurisdiction at any time if it determines that it is an
inconvenient forum under the circumstances and that a court
of another state is a more appropriate forum."
Subsection (b) of the statute further provides:
Before determining whether it is an inconvenient forum, a
court of this state shall consider whether it is appropriate
for a court of another state to exercise jurisdiction. For
this purpose, the court shall allow the parties to submit
information and shall consider all relevant factors,
(1) Whether family violence has occurred and is likely to
continue in the future and which state could best protect the
parties and the child;
(2) The length of time the child has resided outside this
(3) The distance between the court in this state and the
court in the state that would ...