It is often confusing for spouses who live in different states to figure out the appropriate state in which to bring their divorce and child custody action. Jurisdiction in a child custody case in which the parents reside in different states is governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”). The Georgia appellate courts often hear cases regarding this issue and the Court of Appeals of Georgia recently affirmed a trial court’s ruling that jurisdiction was proper in Georgia. In Cohen v. Cohen, the parties were married and had a child in Georgia, but the wife subsequently moved to West Virginia. Cohen v. Cohen, 300 Ga. App. 7 (2009). About a year after moving to West Virginia, the wife filed for divorce and custody there, and the husband filed in Georgia a month later. Id. The West Virginia trial court granted the husband’s motion to dismiss that action and the wife then filed a motion to dismiss the Georgia action for lack of jurisdiction. Id. Generally, “[A] court of this state has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination only if:
(1) 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 six 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;
(2) A court of another state does not have jurisdiction under paragraph (1) of this subsection, 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 Code Section 19-9-67 or 19-9-68 and:
(A) 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 this state other than mere physical presence; and
(B) Substantial evidence is available in this state concerning the child's care, protection, training, and personal relationships;
(3) All courts having jurisdiction under paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that a court of this state is the more appropriate forum to determine the custody of the child under Code Section 19-9-67 or 19-9-68; or
(4) No court of any other state would have jurisdiction under the criteria specified in paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of this subsection.” O.C.G.A. §19-9-61(a).
The Court of Appeals affirmed Georgia’s jurisdiction under subsection OCGA 19-9-61(a)(3), stating that “[t]he trial court made specific reference to the West Virginia court's order, which explicitly found that Heather still had a Georgia driver's license, was a registered voter in Georgia, had utility bills in her name coming to her Georgia address, and had student loan and credit card bills in her name coming to her Georgia address.” Cohen at 9. Those facts, combined with the fact that the dismissal in West Virginia was not appealed, made jurisdiction proper in Georgia.