Custody in cases of interstate or international moves, part 2: Akula v. Akula

| Aug 5, 2020 | Appeals, Child Custody |

Our prior post on interstate and international custody reviewed the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). In that post, we discussed the requirements for deciding which court has jurisdiction over a custody matter when one parent moves to a different state or country. In part 2, we will explore how this law was applied to a divorced couple who moved with their son to India from Chicago in the case Akula v. Akula.

A summary of the facts

Malini and Vikram Akula divorced in 2002 when their son, T.B.A., was just under two years old. The court granted Malini sole custody. In June 2009, they both visited India with T.B.A. While there, they discussed the possibility of Malini and T.B.A. staying in Hyderabad for a time and enrolled him in school in August. Malini signed a lease and received a residential permit to stay in India. In September, Malini returned to Illinois with T.B.A. for one week. She was selling her current house and attempted to buy another in Illinois, though the sale fell through.

Malini returned to Illinois again on October 7, 2009, for back surgery, but T.B.A. stayed in India at school. Malini argued with Vikram that she and T.B.A. should return to Illinois. On October 12, Vikram filed petitions in the Hyderabad family court seeking sole custody. The court entered an order not allowing anyone to remove T.B.A. from Hyderabad. Malini fought the order in Illinois district court, arguing that the Indian family court failed to follow the UCCJEA.

What is residency?

The UCCJEA bases a court’s jurisdiction on residency. At issue in Akula v. Akula was the definition of residency. The UCCJEA states that living somewhere new may give the new location jurisdiction in a custody issue. Malini argued that the Indian family court found that Malini and T.B.A. were residents of Hyderabad, but did not specifically find that they were not residents of Illinois.

The court reviewed different definitions of “residence.” They rejected Malini’s argument because the Indian family court’s finding that they were now residing in Hyderabad was sufficient to imply that they were not residing in Illinois. The court determined that the Indian family court correctly followed the UCCJEA.

What can be learned from this case?

Residency requirements under the UCCJEA are not as simple as where you own a home. In addition, the court will give deference to courts in other jurisdictions when reviewing their decisions. When jurisdiction issues arise in a custody case, the law can quickly become complicated.