from the Circuit Court for Montgomery City, Terrence J.
BY Anthony F. King (Tiana A. Bey, King Branson, LLC on the
brief) all of Rockville, MD FOR APPELLANT.
BY John J. Condliffe (Levin & Gann, PA on the brief) all of
Towson, MD FOR APPELLEE.
Krauser, C.J., Nazarian, Reed, JJ. Opinion by Nazarian, J.
Md.App. 163] Nazarian, J.
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
(" UCCJEA" ) eliminates jurisdictional wrangling
and forum shopping in custody cases by defining, for each
child, a " home state" that has exclusive
jurisdiction to make initial custody decisions. The young boy
at the heart of this case has had a peripatetic life--his
parents, both native to foreign countries, lived in Maryland,
then New York, and he traveled for extended periods with his
mother to her job assignments in several African countries
while his father remained here. The Circuit Court for
Montgomery County found that Maryland is the boy's home
state and, after an evidentiary hearing, granted sole legal
and physical custody to his father. His mother, who filed the
case in Montgomery County in the first place, disputes the
court's threshold finding and asks us to [227 Md.App.
164] hold that Ethiopia is his home state (foreign countries
can be home states too). This case presents a
trickier-than-usual application of the UCCJEA's process
for assigning a home state, but we agree with the circuit
court's decision and affirm.
facts underlying the parents' marriage, divorce, and
custody dispute are colorful and hotly disputed, but the only
facts relevant to the issues before us relate to the
whereabouts of their son, B.
appellee, Alioune Ndiaye (the " Father" ), is a
native of Senegal, and the appellant, Nafissatou Garba (the
" Mother" ) a native of Niger, and both are United
States citizens. They lived first in an apartment, then
a home they owned, and worked in Montgomery
County. They vacationed to Niger to marry in
2008, and shortly thereafter Mother accepted a job with the
United Nations. Her first assignment was in New York City;
she, Father, and her son, M., relocated to New York
City, but maintained their Maryland residences and returned
to Maryland every weekend.
there, Mother took a year-long field assignment in
Guinea-Bissau, and she moved there alone in April 2010.
Father remained in Maryland, living with Mother's mother
and M., but visited Mother in Guinea-Bissau, where they
conceived B., their first and only child together. To receive
[227 Md.App. 165] the favorable maternity leave offered to
United Nations employees, the parents agreed that Mother
should renew her annual contract to remain at her job in
Guinea-Bissau, but return to Maryland at the conclusion of
that second year. From there, however, the parents'
relationship began to decline.
born in Maryland in 2011, and has lived in many places during
his young life:
o September 9, 2011 : Mother left Guinea-Bissau to
give birth to B. in Maryland.
o January 2012 : Mother and B., then four months
old, left Maryland for Guinea-Bissau. In September, Mother
filed for voluntary separation.
o April 6, 2013 : Mother and B. moved to Ethiopia
for Mother's new field assignment.
o August 2013 : Mother sent B. to Maryland to
celebrate his second birthday with Father. Father, though,
was in Senegal, and did not see B. Instead, B. stayed with
Mother's mother (at Mother's house in Maryland) until
Mother could join B. in the United States.
o November 24, 2013 : Mother and B. returned to
o January 11, 2014 : Mother and B. returned to
Maryland to visit M. for M.'s 15th birthday.
o February 7, 2014 : Mother and B. returned to
That same day, Mother filed a verified
complaint in the circuit court, seeking an
absolute divorce from Father and sole physical and legal
custody of B. She stated that she was " domiciled in
the State of Maryland and ha[d] been living in the State of
Maryland for more than 12 months [227 Md.App. 166] prior to
the filing of this Complaint." She listed a Montgomery
County address as her address. Father answered and filed
counterclaims, including a motion to dismiss based on
Mother's failure to file financial statements. The
court dismissed the complaint, but Father's
counterclaim for divorce and custody proceeded. In August,
and in parallel, Mother sought an ex parte divorce
and custody in Niger, and on September 16, 2014, the
Nigerien court granted divorce and sole physical and legal
custody to Mother.
o October 5, 2014 : Mother and B. traveled to
Maryland. On October 13, Mother applied for a visa for Sudan
so she could undertake a new United Nations assignment. Her
initial Sudanese assignment would be in Darfur, but since it
was a non-family mission, B. could not go with her. Mother
enrolled B. in a Maryland preschool on October 14,
2014, and he started school on October 21.
On October 26, Mother returned to Ethiopia, while B. remained
in Maryland with Mother's mother. Mother came back to
Maryland on November 14, 2014, then went back to Ethiopia in
On December 2, 2014, the Circuit Court for Montgomery
County held a pendente lite hearing and
subsequently ordered temporary sole physical and legal
custody to Father.
o December 12, 2014 : Mother's mother took B. to
Niger. There is conflicting testimony as to which day B. left
school, but it is undisputed that Mother
called the school on December 15 stating that B. was out of
the country due to an emergency. On December 16, Mother
relocated to Darfur, Sudan.
[227 Md.App. 167] Also on December 16, Father filed a
report with the Montgomery County Police Department
alleging that Mother had illegally removed B. from the
United States. Detective Kevin Conroy investigated the
complaint and maintained email contact with Mother
throughout the investigation. During the email
conversations, Detective Conroy explained to Mother that
the circuit court had granted temporary custody to Father.
Mother initially complained that she wasn't served with
the order, then claimed the court order didn't apply to
her because B. had often lived outside of the United