Thursday, January 26, 2017

Milestones: In re M.M., 240 Cal.App.4th 703 (Cal. App. 4th Dist. 2015)


In a domestic violence case, the family involved previously resided in Japan prior to moving to San Diego, California, and the minor child in the family had dual citizenship with the United States and Japan. The domestic violence episode occurred in San Diego, and San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency recommended that the minor become a ward of a juvenile court while being under the mother's care. 

The juvenile court initially found it had emergency jurisdiction under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. The California court contacted a family court in Yokohama, Japan to inquire whether the Japanese court would be interested in exercising jurisdiction. The Japanese court official said it was improper for the court in Japan to communicate with another court regarding a specific case. (The Japanese court instead urged the California court to use a diplomatic channel.) California court interpreted this as the Japanese court declining to exercise jurisdiction, and exercised permanent jurisdiction. The mother objected to this exercise of jurisdiction.

The appellate court found that the juvenile court properly interpreted the Japanese court's communication as a refusal to exercise jurisdiction.


Once again, here comes this blog's favorite topic: international family law! This one is a classic issue in private international law--international judicial cooperation, more specifically how to make the mismatching parts of various judicial systems work together. 

In this case, there seems to be enough to claim that Japan's judiciary did not necessarily decline jurisdiction; it only requested the U.S. court to communicate through proper channel. But there also is an (unstated) interest in moving the process forward, especially in the context of family law where a minor is involved. In the end, it appears in this case that pragmatism took precedence over rigorous application of legal principles.

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