This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






In Re the Marriage of:

Kellie Jo Smith,





Paul Michael Smith,



Filed June 12, 2001


Amundson, Judge


Ramsey County District Court
File No. F3911019


Marc G. Kurzman, 219 Southeast Main Street, Suite 203, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)


Todd R. Haugan, 204 Marquee Place, 641 East Lake St., Wayzata, MN 55391 (for respondent)


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

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N



In a post-dissolution proceeding, the district court denied appellant's motion for determination of custody and visitation issues, concluding that Minnesota was without jurisdiction.  We affirm.


            The marriage of appellant-father, Paul Michael Smith, and respondent-mother, Kellie Jo Smith, was dissolved in 1992.  In March 1993, mother moved with the parties' two children to Greene County, Missouri, where she and the children continue to reside.

            On September 10, 1999, father filed a pro se motion in the Ramsey County District Court for determination of custody and visitation issues.  Shortly thereafter, mother registered the parties' Minnesota divorce decree in Missouri and filed a motion in the Missouri courts for a modification of that decree.  Mother then filed a responsive pleading to father's Ramsey County motion, alleging that jurisdiction properly rested with the Missouri court.

            On March 9, 2000, a commissioner of the Greene County, Missouri Circuit Court issued findings and recommendations, concluding that Missouri now has jurisdiction over child custody decisions that arise out of the original divorce decree.  Pursuant to Missouri's Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, the Missouri court stayed a final ruling until the Minnesota courts ruled on the jurisdiction issue.  After the Missouri court's decision, the Ramsey County District Court entered found that it lacked jurisdiction based on the fact that mother and the children had resided in Missouri for more than six years.  This appeal followed.


            Jurisdictional issues are questions of law, which this court reviews de novo.  McLain v. McLain, 569 N.W.2d 219, 222 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. Nov. 18, 1997).        

Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA),[1] a Minnesota court may exercise jurisdiction in a custody matter if (1) Minnesota is the child’s home state; (2) the child is present in Minnesota and has been abandoned, or asserting jurisdiction is necessary in an emergency to protect the child; (3) no other state has jurisdiction or another state with jurisdiction has declined to act and it is in the child's best interests to assert jurisdiction; or (4) it is in the child’s best interests because the child, at a minimum, has a significant connection with this state and there is substantial evidence available concerning the "child's present or future care, protection, training, and personal relationships."  Minn. Stat. § 518A.03, subd. 1 (1998). 

            The district court properly concluded that Minnesota does not have jurisdiction.  First, because the children have lived in Missouri for more than six years, Minnesota is not the children's home state.[2]  Second, no "custody emergency" exists because the facts here present a dispute over visitation and tax forms; the children have not been abandoned and no "emergency" exists that requires protective action.  See Schmidt v. Schmidt, 436 N.W.2d 99, 104 (Minn. 1989) ("emergency" jurisdiction is available only where the child has been subjected to or threatened by abuse).  Third, because Missouri will assert jurisdiction, "default" jurisdiction is not necessary.  Therefore, the only remaining basis for father's jurisdictional claim is that jurisdiction is premised on the children's best interests. 

In order for jurisdiction to be exercised under the best-interests analysis, the child must have "a significant connection" with Minnesota and there must be substantial evidence concerning the child's present or future care, protection, training, and personal relationships available in Minnesota.  Minn. Stat. § 518A.03, subd. 1(b).  When asserting jurisdiction for the "best interests of the children," we examine whether to assert jurisdiction would be in the child’s interests, not whether it would be in the interests or convenience of the feuding parties to determine the issues in a particular state.  Schmidt, 436 N.W.2d at 104 n.6 (citation omitted).  The interests of the children are best served when the forum has optimum access to relevant evidence about the children and their family.  Id.  “Maximum state contacts, rather than minimum, are required to support ‘best interest’ jurisdiction.”  Id. at 104.

            Both children have now lived in Missouri for more than eight years.  The evidence of their family life, schooling, care, personal relationships, and the like are more easily obtainable in Missouri.  Father does not point to any factors that would support a finding that it is in the children's best interests to have a modification hearing held in Minnesota, only that it would be more convenient for him to litigate the matters here.  Under the UCCJA, Minnesota does not have jurisdiction over the child custody and visitation issues in this matter.   



[1] Until 1999, jurisdiction in child custody cases was determined by the UCCJA.  In 1999, the legislature repealed the UCCJA, replacing it with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which became effective on January 1, 2000.  1999 Minn. Laws ch. 74, art. 3, § 20.  The repealing legislation provides that a motion commenced before the effective date of the act is governed by the law in effect at the time the motion was made.  Id.  Because father filed his motion on September 10, 1999, we analyze the case under the UCCJA rather than the UCCJEA.

[2] "Home state" is defined as the state in which the child had lived for the previous six months.  Minn. Stat. § 518A.02 (1998).