On March 9, 2021, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed its trial court in Greenbank v. Vanzant.
Ms. Vanzant, the paternal grandmother of the child at issue, negotiated a Visitation Agreement with Ms. Greenbank, the child’s mother and only living parent. That Visitation Agreement was approved and entered as a court order. The Visitation Agreement gave Ms. Vanzant visitation, including continued visitation if Ms. Greenbank moved to Canada with the child. It also required Ms. Greenbank to give Ms. Vanzant at least 14 days notice before moving to Canada. A few days later, Ms. Greenbank moved to BC, Canada without any notice, and refused to comply with the Visitation Agreement. She failed to appear at a Superior Court hearing about her non-compliance. A warrant was issued for her arrest.
In 2013, Ms. Vanzant sought to domesticate the Visitation Agreement/Order in BC, but her application was dismissed in 2014, after the Canadian court concluded that it was “contrary to public policy in British Columbia” because of weeklong annual visits between the child and grandmother in Arizona when the child had not seen its grandmother in 2 years, and because Ms. Greenbank was unable to bring the child to Arizona due to the arrest warrant. In 2018, Ms. Greenback filed a family court action in BC, and Ms. Vanzant filed a “jurisdictional response.” The BC Court accepted jurisdiction and entered an order allowing only limited supervised visits between Ms. Vanzant and the grandchild. There continued to be arrest warrants and contempt proceedings in Arizona, which Ms. Greenback then sought to dismiss on the basis that Canada took up jurisdiction. In April 2020, the Superior Court agreed with Ms. Greenback, dismissed the matter with prejudice, quashed the civil arrest warrant, and deemed Arizona to have lost exclusive, continuing jurisdiction.
Arizona had exclusive, continuing jurisdiction over the custody matter, pursuant to the UCCJEA until either of the following became true:
1. neither the child, nor the child and one parent, nor the child and a person acting as a parent have a significant connection with Arizona, and substantial evidence is no longer available in Arizona; or
2. the Arizona court or the Canadian courts determine that the child, the child’s parents and any person acting as a parent do not presently reside in Arizona.
The Canadian court concluded that the child and its only living parent resided in Canada for the better part of 7 years, and therefore it had jurisdiction. Therefore, Arizona concluded it lost CEJ. The UCCJEA grants no jurisdictional protections for grandparents or third parties who are not acting as parents.