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In re Walker

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District, Houston

January 23, 2014

IN RE ALYSSA WALKER, Relator

Page 213

Panel consists of Justices Keyes, Bland, and Brown.

OPINION

Page 214

Evelyn V. Keyes, Justice.

Original Proceeding on Petition for Writ of Mandamus

Relator, Alyssa Walker, brings this original mandamus proceeding complaining of the trial court's order denying her plea to the jurisdiction in a child custody dispute.[1] The central issue to be decided in this case is whether Texas is the " home state" of the child for purposes of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (" UCCJEA" ), and, thus, whether the trial court properly assumed jurisdiction. Because we find that Texas is not the child's home state and the trial court erred in assuming jurisdiction, we conditionally grant Walker's petition for writ of mandamus, in part.

Background

Walker and real party in interest, Jeremiah Dawson, are the parents of K.H.D. Walker and Dawson have never been married. K.H.D. was born on July 12, 2009 in Georgia. For a period of time, both before and after K.H.D.'s birth, Walker and Dawson lived together. In December 2010, the parties broke up and Walker moved out of the home she was sharing with Dawson and K.H.D. K.H.D. appears to have continued living with Dawson. However, the parties devised a schedule for Walker to see and take care of K.H.D.

At some point, Dawson decided that he wanted to move to Texas. In March 2012, Dawson traveled to Texas, along with his then-pregnant wife (who is not K.H.D.'s mother), in order to determine where they should move. According to Dawson, he, his pregnant wife, and K.H.D. then moved to Texas on May 25, 2012.[2] Walker remained in Georgia.

In early June 2012, Dawson and his wife, along with K.H.D., returned to Georgia, while they awaited the birth of Dawson's baby.[3] Dawson's child was born on

Page 215

June 25, 2012. During their time in Georgia, Dawson and his family, including K.H.D., lived at the residence where they had lived prior to May 25, 2012 and where they still had a lease. During this period, K.H.D. also spent time with Walker and lived with her for several days.

The family did not leave Georgia again until July 25, 2012, after the new baby received his first set of shots. Thus, the record is undisputed that K.H.D. was in Georgia from June 2012 until July 25, 2012, when Dawson, his wife, their child, and K.H.D. finally departed for Texas, bringing the family's belongings with a moving truck.

On August 10, 2012, Dawson started his job in Texas. K.H.D. began attending school in September. Over Thanksgiving 2012, Walker visited K.H.D. at Dawson's home in Texas. It was at this time that Walker took K.H.D. back to Georgia with her.[4]

On November 27, 2012, Dawson filed a Petition in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship in Fort Bend County, Texas. Walker subsequently filed a Special Appearance, Plea to the Jurisdiction, Request for Court to Decline Jurisdiction, and Original Answer. The trial court held a hearing on December 17, 2012 on Walker's motion, at the conclusion of which, the trial court orally found that Texas was the home state of K.H.D. and denied Walker's plea to the jurisdiction.

On January 8, 2013, the trial court entered its order finding Texas to be the home state of K.H.D. and denying Walker's Motion for Special Appearance, Plea to the Jurisdiction, and Request for Court to Decline Jurisdiction. That same day, the trial court entered temporary orders that, inter alia, awarded Dawson possession of the child. Following the January order, K.H.D. was turned over to Dawson.

On January 24, 2013, Walker filed an initial child custody suit in Georgia. Walker also filed a motion for rehearing and reconsideration of her plea to the jurisdiction in the Texas child custody case. On May 28, 2013, the trial court denied Walker's motion.

Walker has now filed a petition for writ of mandamus with this Court. In her petition, Walker argues that Georgia, not Texas, is K.H.D's home state and, thus, the trial court is ...


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