On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Ocean County, Docket No. FD-15-1450-09C.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Skillman, P.J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Skillman, Fuentes and Simonelli.
This appeal requires us to interpret the provisions of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), N.J.S.A. 2A:34-53 to -95, dealing with initial jurisdiction over child custody disputes.
Defendant Robert Jacobs is a lifelong resident of the State of Washington. Defendant Amanda Gallagher moved from New Jersey to Washington in the middle of 2007 and soon thereafter began a romantic relationship with Jacobs. This relationship resulted in the conception of a child, who was born in Washington in June 2008.
The parties had a tumultuous relationship, which resulted in them filing domestic violence complaints against each other in Washington. There is no need to describe those proceedings except insofar as they relate to custody of their child.
On March 5, 2009, Jacobs filed a petition for a parenting plan in the Superior Court of Washington. That same day, the court entered an order restraining Gallagher from removing the parties' child from Washington. Thereafter, the court entered an order for a temporary parenting plan providing for custody and parenting time with the child.
Within a short time after entry of this order, Jacobs and Gallagher reconciled, and on April 20, 2009, the Washington Superior Court dismissed the temporary parenting plan without prejudice. However, less than a month later, on May 17, 2009, Gallagher left Washington with the parties' child without Jacobs's consent and moved back to New Jersey.
The day after she arrived in New Jersey, Gallagher filed a domestic violence complaint against Jacobs which, among other things, sought temporary custody of the child.
Two days later, on May 20, 2009, Jacobs moved in Washington Superior Court for an order reinstating the temporary parenting plan he had voluntarily dismissed when he and Gallagher reconciled. The Washington court denied Jacobs's motion and directed him to file a petition for a new plan. On June 15, 2009, Jacobs filed a petition in Washington for a new parenting plan.
Meanwhile, back in New Jersey, Gallagher's mother and sister, plaintiffs Debra and Amy Dalessio, filed this action against Jacobs and Gallagher seeking custody of the child. Plaintiffs alleged that Jacobs had a "long history of abuse and violence" and had "threatened... Gallagher's life on several occasions." They also alleged that Gallagher was unable to take care of the child "due to legal issues[,]" which apparently referred to Gallagher's incarceration.
On June 9, 2009, the Family Part, invoking emergency jurisdiction, entered an order granting temporary custody of the child to the Dalessios, with Gallagher's consent, but over Jacobs's objection. Although the court subsequently determined that the domestic violence complaint Gallagher filed against Jacobs in New Jersey had not been substantiated, the order granting the Dalessios ...