LEMM v. SALAMEY
No. 256675

FACTS
The parties were married in Lebanon in 1987. Subsequently, they moved to Michigan and became United State citizens. The parties had two children together, Donna and Ramsey. In 1996 the parties moved back to Lebanon and they divorced. The Lebanese court granted custody of the children to the husband. The husband remained living with the children in Lebanon while the wife returned to live in the United States.   After a visit with her Mother in Germany, Donna returned to the United States with her Mother instead of returning to her Father in Lebanon.  The wife filed a complaint, seeking custody of Donna and the trial court awarded custody to the wife. The husband appealed, arguing that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to grant custody, as the Lebanese court still had jurisdiction over the matter.

ISSUE
Whether a foreign court’s custody decree is binding in a state where the husband was a resident at the time the custody claim as filed.

RULING
The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision, granting the wife custody over Donna. The court based its decision on Michigan’s Modification of child-custody determination Statute, MCL 722.1203. This statute states that a Michigan court will abide by a foreign court’s child custody determination unless a Michigan court would have initial jurisdiction over the claim and it “determines that neither the child, nor a parent of the child, nor a person acting as a parent presently resides in the other state.” Here, the husband was a resident of Michigan at the time the wife filed the custody claim as was evidenced by the defendant claiming Michigan as his residence on his 2002 tax returns. Thus, the Lebanese court’s custody determination was not binding on the Michigan courts and therefore the trial court’s decision was proper.

The appellate court noted that while it could arrive at the same conclusion by analyzing the Lebanese court’s decree under Michigan’s International application of act Statute, MCL 722.1105, it preferred to engage in the simpler analysis of Michigan’s Modification of child-custody determination Statute. Since Michigan’s International application of act Statute would require the court to compare “Lebanese law and the factual circumstances of this case as it was litigated in Lebanon with Michigan jurisdictional standards”, the court found the analysis to be complex and chose to engage in a simpler analysis that would reach the same conclusion as the trial court.

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