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Cabrera v. Mercado

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

September 28, 2016

SUGHEIL CABRERA
v.
NELSON MERCADO

          Krauser, C.J. Berger, J., Leahy, J.

          OPINION

          Leahy, J.

          This appeal concerns a marriage gone wrong, allegations of abuse, and an infant who was taken by one parent to live in another state without the other parent's knowledge or consent. The circumstance is one that the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (the "Parental Kidnapping Statute"), 28 U.S.C. § 1738A (2012), and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA"), codified at Maryland Code (1984, 2012 Repl. Vol.), Family Law Article ("FL"), § 9.5-101 et seq., were enacted to prevent.[1]

         A.M.C.[2] was born in June 2014 to Appellant Sugheil Cabrera and Appellee Nelson Mercado-a married couple living in Rockville, Maryland. Four months later, Ms. Cabrera filed a petition for a protective order against Mr. Mercado in the District Court of Maryland. The district court issued a temporary protective order ("TPO") granting temporary custody of A.M.C. to Ms. Cabrera, with visitation to Mr. Mercado. At Ms. Cabrera's prompting, the parties asked the court to postpone the scheduled merits hearing, and meanwhile, Mr. Mercado's visits with his son continued every other day without any problems.

         When Mr. Mercado and his attorney appeared at the merits hearing, they learned that Ms. Cabrera had sent her attorney to dismiss the case without explanation. Soon after, they discovered Ms. Cabrera had fled to Puerto Rico-with A.M.C.

         On the very day her attorney dismissed the case in Maryland, Ms. Cabrera filed a complaint for custody in the superior court in Puerto Rico. In response, Mr. Mercado quickly filed a complaint for custody and divorce in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. These filings unleashed a jurisdictional battle over the custody of A.M.C. between the parents, and between the states[3] in which they now reside.

         Although several custody and affiliated orders have been entered in both Puerto Rico and in Montgomery County, Maryland, this appeal brought by Ms. Cabrera springs mainly from the final custody order entered in favor of Mr. Mercado in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County.[4] Central to the issues Ms. Cabrera raises on appeal is the question of jurisdiction over A.M.C. under the UCCJEA and the Parental Kidnapping Statute.

         We hold that Maryland is the child's "home state" under both statutes, and that Maryland already made the initial custody determination by the time Ms. Cabrera filed her complaint in Puerto Rico. Accordingly, the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion in entering an emergency temporary custody order or a final custody order in Mr. Mercado's favor.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Dismissal of Petition for Protective Order

         Ms. Cabrera and Mr. Mercado[5] were married on December 12, 2013 in Rockville, Maryland. The couple resided in Clarksburg, Maryland, and both were employed at the National Institutes of Health ("NIH") in Rockville, Maryland.[6] Their only child, A.M.C., was born on June 21, 2014.

         On October 25, 2014, Ms. Cabrera petitioned the District Court of Maryland in Montgomery County for a protective order-for herself and A.M.C.-against Mr. Mercado. In the petition, Ms. Cabrera claimed that she "feared for [her] safety" and that Mr. Mercado was "threatening, harassing and intimidating [her] for some time now[, ] and it has become a pattern . . . ." She further alleged that Mr. Mercado had displayed a pattern of obsessive activity, that she felt "stalked and harassed, " and that he had been tracking her activities. Specifically, Ms. Cabrera described two incidents that she claimed occurred on October 24 and 25, 2014:

This morning while I as leaving the house my husband blocked my entrance[.] Also while I was putting the baby in the carseat[, ] he pushed the car door attempting to hurt me when I asked him for some space while securing the baby in the car.
* * *
Last night (10/24) I arrived home at 8:30 pm and he snatched the baby away from me the minute I walked in the house. He was questioning me where was I saying "God knows what you've been doing and who you've been with[.]" He made a threat that "I would know what he had for me in due time[.]" I replied saying that I wasn't going to get intimidated by him. . . .

         Ms. Cabrera complained that she was being subjected to Mr. Mercado's general pattern of controlling behavior, including that he listened to her phone calls, that his body language was intimidating, and that he had "snatche[d]" A.M.C. from her arms. She also included complaints that more reflected anger or frustration rather than fear, such as her allegations that Mr. Mercado "[d]oesn't take his fa[ir] share of responsibilities" and "refuses to help with childcare and/or housework" and that she "constantly needs to remind [Mr. Mercado] to put the money in the household account." The only allegations she presented in the petition that were in any way directed toward A.M.C.-rather than toward herself-were that Mr. Mercado "likes to snatch the baby from [her] when [she's] holding him[, ]" and that he raises his voice at A.M.C. when the baby gets fussy.

         The district court issued an ex parte interim protective order for the benefit of Ms. Cabrera and A.M.C. against Mr. Mercado on October 26, 2014. The order, by its terms effective only through October 28, stated that there were "reasonable grounds to believe" Mr. Mercado had committed the offenses of assault and stalking, and ordered that Mr. Mercado not abuse, threaten, harass, contact, or attempt to contact Ms. Cabrera. The order further directed Mr. Mercado vacate and stay away from the couple's Clarksburg residence, and granted Ms. Cabrera temporary use and possession of the home. Mr. Mercado abided by the protective order and immediately left the house upon receiving a copy.

         At the ensuing protective order hearing on October 28, 2014, Mr. Mercado and his counsel appeared along with Ms. Cabrera. The district court issued a TPO at the conclusion of the hearing. Similar to the interim protective order, the TPO recited the district court's finding that there were reasonable grounds to believe Mr. Mercado had assaulted Ms. Cabrera on October 25, 2014. The TPO ordered that Mr. Mercado not abuse, threaten to abuse, harass, or contact Ms. Cabrera, and further ordered that he stay away from Ms. Cabrera's residence and place of employment. Notably, the TPO awarded custody of A.M.C. to Ms. Cabrera until the final protective order hearing, which was scheduled for November 5, 2014, and allowed for a three-hour supervised visitation session on November 1, 2014.

         Ms. Cabrera, Mr. Mercado, and their respective attorneys appeared for the scheduled proceeding on November 5, 2014, and requested the district court extend the term of the TPO to November 17, 2014. According to Mr. Mercado, he agreed to this postponement so that the parties could negotiate visitation with A.M.C. on their own. The amended TPO provided for six visitation sessions between November 5 and November 14, 2014.[7]

         On the morning of November 17, 2014, Mr. Mercado and his counsel appeared in court. Ms. Cabrera did not appear. Instead, Ms. Cabrera's counsel appeared and requested dismissal of the petition for protective order without explanation. The district court dismissed the case.[8]

         B. Flight to Puerto Rico

         Ms. Cabrera fled to Puerto Rico with A.M.C., without Mr. Mercado's knowledge or consent, on November 15, 2014-just two days prior to the scheduled hearing that was extended at her request. The same day that Ms. Cabrera's petition for protective order was dismissed, on November 17, 2014, Ms. Cabrera filed a complaint for custody of A.M.C. in the Superior Court of Puerto Rico for the Judicial Region of Bayamon.[9] The complaint alleged that Mr. Mercado "exhibit[ed] a pattern of domestic violence" that made cohabitation impossible. The complaint further alleged:

9. That [Mr. Mercado] is a citizen of Bolivia[10] and although he holds U.S. citizenship, he has expressed his desire to move the minor out of the jurisdiction, without the consent of [Ms. Cabrera].
10. That [Ms. Cabrera] fears that [Mr. Mercado] will remove [A.M.C.] from our jurisdiction without her consent, impeding in this manner the efforts on the part of [Ms. Cabrera] to exercise physical and legal custody, and prolonging any legal proceedings related to the custody of the minor.

         The complaint also asserted that Mr. Mercado "does not show domestic behavior appropriate for his son's upbringing, risking in this manner the physical and emotional health of the minor." And, that he "faces serious behavioral problems, behaving in a violent manner physically and psychologically preventing him from offering the ideal conditions for the minor." The complaint requested, inter alia, (1) a temporary custody order in favor of Ms. Cabrera until a final order was issued; (2) a temporary order forbidding the removal of A.M.C. from Puerto Rico; and (3) a final custody order in favor of Ms. Cabrera. Ms. Cabrera made no mention in the complaint she filed in Puerto Rico of the fact that she had previously filed a protective order petition in Maryland that had granted her temporary custody of A.M.C.

         Mr. Mercado was personally served, in Maryland, with the Puerto Rican summons (although there is some ambiguity in the record concerning the specific documents that were served on him), but he filed no responsive pleading. He does not contest that he was served.

         C. Mr. Mercado's Emergency Motion for Custody and Return of Child

         On November 21, 2014, Mr. Mercado initiated the underlying action on appeal by filing an Emergency Motion to Return Child to Maryland and Emergency Motion for Temporary Custody ("Emergency Motion"), along with a complaint for divorce, custody, and child support in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County.[11] In his complaint, Mr. Mercado "contest[ed] the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico[, ]" stating that he "has never been a resident nor domiciled in nor had contacts with such jurisdiction [and that] Puerto Rico is [Ms. Cabrera]'s Territory of birth to which she has absconded with [A.M.C]." The complaint requested that Mr. Mercado be granted, inter alia, (1) a limited divorce; (2) pendente lite and permanent custody of A.M.C.; and (3) various relief relating to marital property and the family residence.

         In the Emergency Motion, Mr. Mercado "adamantly challenge[d Ms. Cabrera]'s claim of abuse" and stated that Mr. Mercado "has been a kind, caring spouse and good father." He asserted that Maryland was A.M.C.'s home state pursuant to the Maryland UCCJEA and that Maryland "has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction over custody of [A.M.C]." As such, he asserted in the Emergency Motion that Maryland was "the proper forum for a merits determination of custody and access, " and requested that he be granted temporary legal and physical custody of A.M.C. and that A.M.C. be returned to Maryland.

         Mr. Mercado stated in the Emergency Motion that he had notified Ms. Cabrera by email and regular mail of the scheduled proceeding on the motion to be held on November 24, 2014. Just prior to the hearing on November 24, 2014, Mr. Mercado supplemented the Emergency Motion with a certification and several attachments demonstrating that his counsel had sent Ms. Cabrera's counsel in Maryland and her counsel in Puerto Rico notice of the hearing along with the writ of summons, a copy of the custody and divorce complaint, and a copy of the Emergency Motion.

         The circuit court held a hearing on the Emergency Motion on November 24, 2014. Mr. Mercado appeared with counsel, and neither Ms. Cabrera nor counsel appeared. Mr. Mercado testified that he had abided by the terms of the protective order and that no problems had occurred during any of the scheduled visitation sessions. He further testified that Ms. Cabrera had said that she was going to Richmond, Virginia, the weekend she actually left for Puerto Rico. He also testified that he received "paperwork" on November 18, 2014, stating that Ms. Cabrera had initiated a custody action in a Puerto Rico court. Mr. Mercado denied Ms. Cabrera's allegations of domestic violence. He stated that the first time he learned that his wife was in Puerto Rico was when a friend of Ms. Cabrera's called him to tell him that she had not heard from Ms. Cabrera since she traveled to Puerto Rico.

         After hearing Mr. Mercado's testimony, the court stated that the allegations of domestic violence complicated what would otherwise be a relatively straightforward problem-Ms. Cabrera's disappearance with the child. But, the court also noted (from Ms. Cabrera's petition for protective order) that there did not appear to be any concerns about A.M.C.'s safety with Mr. Mercado or "anything in the[] pleadings that would rise to the level of there being an allegation of some unsafety with the child." Counsel for Mr. Mercado requested a temporary custodial order.

         The circuit court judge then announced her ruling:

I'm prepared to find on the basis of what I have here, which is, admittedly, one side of the story for the most part -- although I do have some of what Ms. Cabrera told the court, at least about the circumstances of the filing that she made with the protective order, and I just said, there doesn't seem to be any allegation of concern about the way the baby was being treated by Mr. Mercado -- Ms. Cabrera obviously felt like she was being disrespected.
Her pleadings alleged stalking and, that may be what she sensed was happening. But at least as far as the child is concerned, I don't see any allegation of bad behavior.
. . . It does seem to me that a temporary emergency custody order is in order. Whatever else is true. The way to solve these problems is not to run to another jurisdiction. Fortunately, Puerto Rico is a place that we have some ability to reach.
So what I'm going to do is grant that request for temporary emergency custody of the child, but also say that Ms. Cabrera is entitled to a hearing on 48 hours' notice with regards to that order.
I'll also direct law enforcement to use all reasonable force, if necessary, to return the child to his father for this temporary emergency custody purposes only.
. . . [O]bviously, if Ms. Cabrera learns of this order and voluntarily returns with A[M.C.], it's probably the best of all circumstances, and then perhaps we can deal with this in some organized, practical fashion.
And it's not really a question, I don't think, of home state jurisdiction, but I think the law is clear that even though [A.M.C.] is not yet 6 months, you know, the place where he's residing is his home state. So I'm happy to sign such an order.

         On November 25, 2014, the court, "satisfied that [Mr. Mercado] made good faith attempts to provide notice of this appearance to [Ms. Cabrera]" entered an emergency temporary custody order directing: (1) that Ms. Cabrera immediately surrender A.M.C. to the temporary physical and legal custody of Mr. Mercado until further order of the court; (2) that A.M.C. not be removed from Maryland; and (3) that Ms. Cabrera is entitled to a hearing on 48 hours' notice to Mr. Mercado.

         On December 27, 2014, a process server served Fernando A. Cabrera Balasquides- Ms. Cabrera's father-with the Maryland emergency temporary custody order; the writ of summons; the complaint for divorce, custody, and child support; and other documents. According to the affidavit of service, the process server served Mr. Cabrera at Ms. Cabrera's "dwelling house or usual place of abode, at Club Drive J-4 Garden Hills, Guaynabo, PR 00966 with a resident of suitable age and discretion[.]"[12] The affidavit of service describes the following incident:

Deliver to the father of the recipient, when the [process server] arrives to the home also the mother of Sugheil Cabrera have the kid in her arms and a[s] soon see the Process Server she yell[s] to his husband close the garage door and put the baby down on the floor to avoid that the [process server] see the baby, but [process server] see the baby and proceed the serve the papers to the father who tell to the [process server] that he was not the father of Sugheil, the [process server] indicated that he knows i[t']s him because have seen him in photos and also see the mother in photos. He ask to[ t]he [process server] how he enter.. the [process server] explain[s] that they can[']t hide behind the gate community control access.

         D. Further Proceedings in Puerto Rico

         The Puerto Rico court held a hearing on January 15, 2015, on the default order that had been entered against Mr. Mercado. According to "Minutes" produced describing the hearing, Ms. Cabrera and her counsel appeared, and Mr. Mercado did not appear. Ms. Cabrera's counsel moved for temporary custody of A.M.C. and an order that A.M.C. not be removed from Puerto Rico, which the court granted. Ms. Cabrera also moved for a default judgment against Mr. Mercado. The final hearing was scheduled for March 25, 2015, and the Puerto Rico judgment that was eventually entered stated that Mr. Mercado was notified of the hearing at his "address of record."

         E. Motion to Decline Jurisdiction in Maryland

         On March 18, 2015, Ms. Cabrera's counsel entered an appearance in the circuit court on behalf of Ms. Cabrera.[13] Ms. Cabrera's counsel also moved to vacate the emergency custody order; this motion was denied.

         Two days later, on March 20, Ms. Cabrera's counsel filed a motion requesting the Maryland court to decline subject matter jurisdiction under the UCCJEA and vacate the emergency custody order. In the motion, Ms. Cabrera implicitly conceded-by not attempting to argue the point-that Maryland was A.M.C.'s home state, but nonetheless argued that Maryland should decline jurisdiction under the UCCJEA because (1) Maryland was an inconvenient forum and (2) Puerto Rico was a more appropriate forum to determine custody and visitation. She contended that Puerto Rico was a more appropriate forum because (1) domestic violence had occurred in Maryland and Puerto Rico could best protect Ms. Cabrera and A.M.C.; (2) A.M.C. had lived in Puerto Rico for the last four months; (3) Ms. Cabrera is the custodial parent, and the noncustodial parent is in a better position to litigate in a foreign jurisdiction; (4) it would be an financial hardship for Ms. Cabrera to litigate in Maryland; (5) no agreement existed between the parties to litigate in Maryland; (6) the evidence required to resolve the custody dispute is located in Puerto Rico; (7) Puerto Rico can decide custody and visitation more expeditiously and economically; and (8) Puerto Rico is more familiar with the facts and issues of the case.

         Ms. Cabrera further observed in her motion that a Puerto Rico court had already asserted subject matter jurisdiction over the matter, insisting that

[a]ny order entered in this Court will merely be in conflict with the orders previously issued by the Puerto Rico Court. Puerto Rico has already assumed jurisdiction over matters related to custody and visitation, it has already issued a temporary order directing that custody be awarded to [Ms. Cabrera] and that the minor child may not be removed from the jurisdiction of the Puerto Rico court, and it is scheduled to address these matters in a final adjudication on March 25, 2015. Any order issued by a Maryland Court will be of no practical effect.

(Emphasis added).

         Finally, Ms. Cabrera argued that the November 25, 2014 emergency custody order should be vacated because (1) she disputed service and (2) the circuit court was not empowered to enter the order when proceedings had already begun in another jurisdiction, as they had in this case in Puerto Rico. A hearing was set for this motion on May 15, 2015.

         F. The Puerto Rican Final Custody Order

         At the March 25, 2015 hearing in the superior court in Puerto Rico, Ms. Cabrera appeared once again with her counsel, and Mr. Mercado did not appear. The court received the following documentary evidence: (1) A.M.C.'s birth certificate; (2) the TPO from the Maryland district court; [14] and (3) the divorce, custody, and child support complaint filed by Mr. Cabrera in the circuit court. Ms. Cabrera also testified, and apparently the court found her credible.

         The Puerto Rico court entered judgment and issued a memorandum opinion in which the court stated that Mr. Mercado[15]

incurred in [sic] domestic violence actions against [Ms. Cabrera], during her pregnancy as well as after the birth of the minor. Said actions consisted in pushes, hair-pulling, verbal abuse and strikes with the door of her motor vehicle, which caused physical and emotional damages to [Ms. Cabrera]. Likewise, [] Mr. Mercado incurred in physical and emotional abuse against his son, consisting in shouts, locking him in a dark room and threatening to take him down to the basement of the residence, all the above in order for [A.M.C.] to stop crying.[16]

         The court described the proceedings that had occurred in Maryland courts up to that point, as well as Ms. Cabrera's flight from Maryland to Puerto Rico on November 15, 2014, and then found that Ms. Cabrera's relatives in Puerto Rico were helping support her and A.M.C. The court noted that it was not Ms. Cabrera's intention "to go back to continue living in [Maryland, ]" and found that Ms. Cabrera had maintained her employment in Maryland through telecommuting.[17]

         The court concluded that it "ha[d] jurisdiction over [Mr. Mercado] inasmuch as the summons was served with the complaint personally to him on November 18, 2014[, ]" and that Ms. Cabrera's allegations "[we]re accepted as proven" because Mr. Mercado had not filed any responsive pleading. The court recognized that the Parental Kidnapping Statute governed the court's decision, and recited the parameters under the statute for determining jurisdiction. Notably, the court's opinion stated that the Parental Kidnapping Statute provides:

(c) A determination on custody or on visiting rights made by a court from a state is consistent with the requirements of this section only if:
(1)Said court has jurisdiction under the laws of its state;
(2)It complies with one of the following conditions:
(A) That state:
i. is the state of residence of the minor as of the date the procedures started, or
ii. has been the state of residence of the minor six (6)
months before the date when the procedures started . . .

(Emphasis supplied).[18] Relying on this interpretation of the Parental Kidnapping Statute, the court then concluded that Puerto Rico had jurisdiction over the custody case:

. . . there not being any custody decision from another state in effect at this time, having established the present ground before to the one submitted in the state of Maryland by [Mr. Mercado], and this Court having jurisdiction over [Mr. Mercado] since it was summoned pursuant to the laws of Puerto Rico, and having evidence of having [Ms. Cabrera] been the object of domestic violence, as well as of abuse toward the minor, both by [Mr. Mercado], and there being no doubt that this Court not only has jurisdiction to attend this case, but that its determination shall receive the full faith and credit of other jurisdiction, pursuant to the [Parental Kidnapping Statute].

(Emphasis added).

         Although the certified translation of the opinion is far from clear, the Puerto Rico court seemed to believe that it had not just temporary emergency jurisdiction-but jurisdiction to decide the entire child custody proceeding under the Parental Kidnapping Statute based on its findings that (1) Puerto Rico was the child's current residence, [19] (2) there was no prior custody decision from another state in effect at that time, (3) Ms. Cabrera alleged domestic violence, and (4) Mr. Mercado had been served in Maryland. The court proceeded to grant legal custody of A.M.C. to Ms. Cabrera and stated that "[t]he transfer of [A.M.C.] . . . out of the Puerto Rican jurisdiction, without the prior authorization of this Court, is hereby forbidden." The court apparently did not consider whether the TPO constituted a custody determination, [20] nor did it consider the definition of "home state" under the Parental Kidnapping Statute, relying instead on its finding that Puerto Rico was the child's current residence.

         G. The Battle Over Jurisdiction Continues in Maryland

         On May 5, 2015, Ms. Cabrera filed a request for registration of the Puerto Rico order in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. The clerk of the court entered a notice of registration of the foreign custody determination on May 7, 2015, stating that it is enforceable as of the date of registration. On May 20, 2015, Mr. Mercado timely filed a motion contesting the registration of the foreign judgment.[21]

         On May 8, 2015, Ms. Cabrera also filed a motion to appear by telephone in the scheduled pendente lite hearing. Ms. Cabrera's motion stated:

6. Defendant, Sugheil Cabrera, wishes to make herself available and participate in this case. . . .
7.Defendant will make herself available from Puerto Rico to this Court on May 15, 2015 in the event the Court has any questions. Defendant will testify at the pendente lite hearing from Puerto Rico on June 1, 2015 and will give her testimony regarding her income and expenses, and access for purposes of the Court deciding pendente lite child support and access.
* * *
9.Transmission of [Ms. Cabrera]'s testimony will be by speaker phone.
10. Requiring the personal appearance of Defendant would cause undue hardship by having her have to fly back from Puerto Rico, and leave behind the minor child, who is still being breast-fed by [Ms. Cabrera], in order to testify.

         Ms. Cabrera then requested that she be allowed to appear by telephone in both the hearing on her motion to decline jurisdiction set for May 15, 2015, and the pendente lite hearing set for June 1, 2015.

         Mr. Mercado filed an opposition to the motion to appear by telephone on May 13, 2015. In the motion, he argued that Ms. Cabrera continues to defy the November 25, 2014 circuit court custody order and that Ms. Cabrera has not shown good cause for absence from the proceedings. He further argued that Ms. Cabrera must appear in person so that he has the opportunity to conduct face-to-face cross examination of her because the court's "assessment of [Ms. Cabrera]'s demeanor and credibility are critical to [] the determination of the best interests of the child in these proceedings." Mr. Mercado further observed that Ms. Cabrera's motion was untimely because it was not filed 30 days before the hearing, as Maryland Rule 2-513(c) requires.

         At the May 15, 2015 hearing on the motion to decline jurisdiction, Ms. Cabrera's counsel argued that (1) Ms. Cabrera had not been properly served; (2) Mr. Mercado has chosen not to participate in the Puerto Rico proceedings; (3) there is a final judgment in Puerto Rico giving custody to Ms. Cabrera that should control; and (4) under the Parental Kidnapping Statute, Puerto Rico had jurisdiction. The court engaged Ms. Cabrera's counsel in the following exchange regarding the jurisdiction over the case:

THE COURT: . . . I think [] the problem here is that there's a disconnect between what happened in Puerto Rico and what you're asking me to do.
[MS. CABRERA'S COUNSEL]: Why is that, Your Honor?
THE COURT: Well, I think the reason for that is because Puerto Rico has proceeded without much regard to whether I declined or [did] not decline[] jurisdiction. But if this Court comes to the conclusion that we do still have jurisdiction, then I'd be interested to know what happens next, since it didn't seem to matter the first time.
[MS. CABRERA'S COUNSEL]: Well, that is actually the problem, Your Honor, and quite frankly the point is that if this Court --
THE COURT: That I should just wave the white flag because they proceeded regardless?
[MS. CABRERA'S COUNSEL]: No, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Okay.
[MS. CABRERA'S COUNSEL]: And I understand, yes, that you can say that, but in essence what this Court does is not going to impact what Puerto Rico does.
Now you know, under the UCCJEA there's a provision for the courts to speak to each other.
THE COURT: Right.
[MS. CABRERA'S COUNSEL]: And that may be an appropriate thing to do here.
THE COURT: I think it might.
[MS. CABRERA'S COUNSEL]: And we certainly, I mean --
THE COURT: Yes.
[MS. CABRERA'S COUNSEL]: -- there'd be no reason not to have that attempt.
It is our position, based on the way the court evaluated it, that the court at this point in time in Puerto Rico has decided that it doesn't care what Maryland does. And so if Maryland were to continue with this dispute, I think that's what you're outlining here, and it will be of no real effect, and we point that out in our proceedings.

(Emphasis added). Ms. Cabrera's counsel further argued that a UCCJEA state cannot assert jurisdiction if another state has already asserted jurisdiction. The colloquy on jurisdiction continued:

THE COURT: So this is an ex parte proceeding in a circumstance that we would say didn't provide fair notice or didn't comply with what we would say the rules are.
[MS. CABRERA'S COUNSEL]: I don't know why we would say that, because he was served in person, an order of default was entered in that case --
THE COURT: Yes, right. That's fine, except for that that's not actually how we would say this would proceed. So how we would say this would, first of all what jurisdiction does the Puerto Rico court have over this gentleman? None that I can think of. So he had actual notice, that's swell, but I don't know what difference that makes as far as jurisdiction [i]s concerned.
Meanwhile, there is a basis for jurisdiction here, and the thing that troubles me about this whole analysis that you're giving me is that it's exactly what these acts were designed to avoid, which is this kind of, and it happens unfortunately all over the world, one would have hoped not in Puerto Rico, but so be it. That people, countries, proceed with their own set of rules about whether a child should be returned to the place from which they were removed without consent of both parties, which is what I think happened here. I think your client left the, she may well have had her reasons, but part of the reason that we do this with two sides available is so that we get both sides of the story.

(Emphasis added).

         Mr. Mercado defended Maryland's jurisdiction over the custody matter, insisting that Maryland was A.M.C.'s home state and the protective order petition-not the Puerto Rico ...


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