NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 10, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Cape May County, Docket No. FM-05-64-13.
Kevin J. Kotch argued the cause for appellant (Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel, L.L.P., attorneys; Shari B. Veisblatt and Mr. Kotch, on the briefs).
Jacqueline Howard, respondent, argued the cause pro se.
Before Judges Espinosa and Koblitz.
Plaintiff Frank Giorgianni appeals from the October 12, 2012 order denying his application to transfer jurisdiction of custody matters to New Jersey and dismissing his complaint seeking a transfer of jurisdiction to New Jersey. Because the parties' divorce in South Carolina was finalized and both parties and their child are permanent residents of New Jersey, we reverse.
We glean the following information from the certifications of the parties and court orders supplied by the parties. The parties married in 2005 and moved to South Carolina in 2007. One child was born in 2008. Plaintiff filed for divorce in South Carolina on June 9, 2009. Defendant Jacqueline Giorgianni, now known as Jacqueline Howard, relocated from South Carolina to New Jersey with the child in August 2010, after certifying to the court that both parties were from New Jersey and had no ties to South Carolina. The South Carolina court allowed her to relocate after determining that New Jersey was the original home state of the parties and both sets of grandparents reside in New Jersey.
In October 2011, after extensive pretrial litigation in South Carolina, plaintiff filed a divorce complaint in New Jersey claiming that New Jersey was then the home state of the child. In November, after consultation between the South Carolina and New Jersey judges pursuant to Section 62 of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), N.J.S.A. 2A:34-53 to -95, South Carolina maintained exclusive, continuing jurisdiction and defendant was awarded counsel fees by the South Carolina court. See Griffith v. Tressel, 394 N.J.Super. 128, 138-30 (App. Div. 2007)(discussing the purposes of the UCCJEA). An order was issued in New Jersey on November 14, 2011, declaring that "South Carolina has exclusive jurisdiction over this custody action." The November 4, 2011 order from South Carolina elucidates further the reasons that the two judges agreed that South Carolina should continue with jurisdiction. The South Carolina judge stated that plaintiff still lived in South Carolina and that South Carolina had jurisdiction of the custody determination when the divorce complaint was filed in South Carolina. Plaintiff began litigation in the New Jersey courts without notifying the South Carolina court, after extensive motion practice in South Carolina and shortly before a hearing was scheduled in South Carolina.
The UCCJEA expressly states in pertinent part that, except for emergent situations,
a court of this State may not exercise its jurisdiction under this article if at the time of the commencement of the proceeding a proceeding concerning the custody of the child had been commenced in a court of another state having jurisdiction substantially in conformity with this act, unless the proceeding has been terminated or is stayed by the court of the other state because a court of this State is a more convenient forum . . . .
Thus, the judges agreed that the divorce should continue in South Carolina. The parties were divorced in South Carolina on December 12, 2011. They entered into a property settlement agreement that included all financial terms as well as their agreement that defendant "shall have sole legal and physical custody" of their child.
Plaintiff had relocated back to New Jersey the prior month, only days after South Carolina entered the order retaining jurisdiction over the custody matter. In July 2012, plaintiff again filed a motion to transfer jurisdiction of the custody matter to New Jersey, requesting oral argument if opposition was filed. On August 9, 2012, he also filed a complaint seeking to transfer jurisdiction of custody issues. Although ...