This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).






In Re the Custody of:

Brianna Irene Schnepel-Rapozo

Date of Birth 9/10/89

James Louis Rapozo, petitioner,





Nancy Jean Schnepel,



Filed September 19, 2000

Foley, Judge


St. Louis County District Court

File No. F2-99-600492


Joanna M. Wiegert, 1000 Torrey Building, 314 West Superior Street, Duluth, MN  55802 (for appellant)


James D. Starr, Indian Legal Assistance Program, 107 West First Street, Duluth, MN  55802 (for respondent)


Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Foley, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

FOLEY, Judge

            Appellant father challenges the district court’s order in a child custody matter, contending that California has jurisdiction over the matter.  We affirm.


            The parties’ daughter was born in Minnesota on September 10, 1989.  Respondent Nancy Schnepel and her daughter resided with appellant James Louis Rapozo in California for a 10-month period between August 1996 and June 1997 to allow a father-daughter relationship to develop.  Pursuant to the parties’ stipulation, a California court adjudicated appellant as the father of the child and granted the parties joint legal and physical custody. In June 1997, respondent and her child returned to Minnesota where they have resided ever since.

            On June 28, 1999, respondent began proceedings in Minnesota by serving appellant with a petition to modify the California decree.  More than two weeks later, a California court issued an ex parte order requiring that the child be sent to California.  Appellant also filed a notice of special appearance to challenge Minnesota’s jurisdiction over the matter, but did not set a hearing date.

            At the Minnesota hearing on the petition, neither appellant nor his attorney appeared.  The district court determined that California no longer had jurisdiction of the child under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) and that Minnesota had jurisdiction, and ruled on the merits of the petition.

            Appellant moved to vacate the order on jurisdictioal grounds.  The district court denied the motion, and the father appeals.


            This court reviews legal issues concerning jurisdiction de novo.  McLain v. McLain, 569 N.W.2d 219, 222 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. Nov. 18, 1997).

            The UCCJA governs the circumstances under which a court of one state may modify the custody decree of another state.  Minn. Stat. § 518A.14, subd. 1 (1998).[1] States must recognize and enforce custody determinations that are consistent with the provisions of the UCCJA.  28 U.S.C.A. § 1738A(a) (1997).

Appellant, who continues to reside in California, contends that California retains exclusive jurisdiction because the custody decree originated there.  A state court has continuing jurisdiction to modify custody if the child or one of the parties resides in that state, and “the court continues to have jurisdiction under the laws of the state.”  Smith v. Smith, 508 N.W.2d 222, 225 (Minn. App. 1993) (citing 28 U.S.C.A. § 1738A(c)(2)(E), (D)).  But the court of one state may modify the custody decree of another state when it appears that the court that rendered the original decree no longer has jurisdiction under the UCCJA because the court seeking to modify does.  Minn. Stat. § 518A.14, subd. 1.  The district court properly addressed the relevant factors to determine California no longer had jurisdiction, and appellant does not challenge that aspect of the decision.[2]

            Appellant also contends that the California court has jurisdiction pursuant to its July 19, 1999, order in which it specifically retained jurisdiction.  A Minnesota court may not exercise its jurisdiction if “at the time of filing the petition a proceeding concerning the custody of the child was pending” in another state’s court which had jurisdiction.  Minn. Stat. § 518A.06, subd. 1 (1998).  Because a proceeding was pending in Minnesota before the California proceeding was commenced, California may not exercise jurisdiction.

            Appellant also contends that the district court improperly failed to accept his motion for a special appearance to challenge jurisdiction.  For a motion to be valid, written notice of the hearing must be given.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 7.02.  Because appellant did not give notice of the date of the hearing, no valid motion was before the court.  Further, the district court addressed the jurisdictional issue in the August 13, 1999, order and the January 18, 2000, order denying the motion to vacate, making this contention moot.  See In re Schmidt, 443 N.W.2d 824, 826 (Minn. 1989) (court will decide only actual controversy).


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1]  The legislature repealed the UCCJA in 1999, replacing it with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, effective January 1, 2000.  1999 Minn. Laws ch. 74, art. 3, §§ 18, 20.

[2]   The hearing transcripts reflect that the Minnesota judge discussed this matter with the judge in California, who essentially agreed that Minnesota had jurisdiction.