In the unreported opinion of Koivu v. Koivu, the Minnesota Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether Minnesota should decline jurisdiction over the Koivu children’s custody because it was an inconvenient forum as compared to Finland. The couple lived in Minnesota for the better part of every year for the Husband’s job as an NHL hockey player, and spent summers and holidays in Finland, where they also had a house.
Pursuant to the UCCJEA, the court may decline jurisdiction if it determines that it is an inconvenient forum under the circumstances and that a court of another State (or country) is a more appropriate forum. The parties are allowed to provide information on 8 separate factors to persuade the court. These factors include: (1) protection against domestic violence that has occurred, (2) the length of time the children resided outside of the state, (3) the distance between the two courts, (4) the relative financial circumstances between the parties, (5) any agreement between the parties as to which state should assume jurisdiction, (6) the nature and location of the evidence, (7) how quickly each court can decide the issues, and (8) the familiarity of each court with the facts and issues. In weighing the facts at trial, the judge concluded that Minnesota should not decline jurisdiction. Mr. Koivu appealed, and specifically argued that: Minnesota was the place the children lived on a temporary basis while their father was working, the parties signed a prenuptial agreement that included a choice of law provision (for Finnish law), the children’s extended family all lived in or around Finland, and that the Finnish courts may delay a final resolution because of a mandatory “cooling off period.” The Court of Appeals was not persuaded that any of these considerations changed the outcome of weighing these factors, and that Mr. Koivu did not meet his burden to show that the trial judge abused his discretion.