The parties and their 2 children are Canadian citizens who migrated to the United States in 2014. They divorced in Delaware in 2016, and in 2018, after a full merits trial, the Delaware Family Court permitted the mother to relocate the children to Canada. In February 2021, the father filed a suit in Delaware to modify the existing custody order. Delaware, under the UCCJEA, had continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify the order it issued. Shortly after a June 2, 2021 case management conference, the mother filed a motion to dismiss the Delaware action, arguing that the court should decline to exercise its jurisdiction, as Canada is a more appropriate forum.
The trial court examined the factors in the UCCJEA for exercising its discretion to decline jurisdiction. While some factors weighed against the motion to dismiss (such as the distance between courts, the expedience of the courts, and the financial circumstances of the parties), and some were neutral (likelihood of domestic violence, agreement between the parties, and familiarity of each court with the facts), the court placed most of its weight on the two remaining factors (the fact the children had been outside of Delaware and in Canada for 4 years, and the nature and location of the evidence to resolve the case was primarily in Canada).
On this basis, Delaware was permitted to decline jurisdiction. The appellate court affirmed. However, the trial judge had also dismissed the case. On appeal, the father argued this was improper, and the Delaware family court should have stayed its proceedings on the condition that child-custody proceedings would be promptly commenced in Canada. The appellate court agreed with the father and remanded the case to the trial court for further action.