Michael Jon Toom v. Sarah Joann Opiol

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF IOWA No. 19-1206 Filed February 19, 2020 MICHAEL JON TOOM, Plaintiff-Appellant, vs. SARAH JOANN OPIOL, Defendant-Appellee. ________________________________________________________________ Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Christopher L. Bruns, Judge. A father seeks an order for joint legal custody and physical care of a child. AFFIRMED. J. Nick Capellupo of Viner Law Firm, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant. David Burbidge of Johnston, Stannard, Klesner, Burbidge & Fitzgerald, P.L.C., Iowa City, for appellee. Considered by Bower, C.J., and Greer and Ahlers, JJ. 2 BOWER, Chief Judge. Michael Toom seeks a custody order for joint legal custody and physical care of his child with Sarah Opiol. Because we find Iowa does not have jurisdiction to make an initial child-custody determination under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), we affirm. I. Background Facts & Proceedings Toom and Opiol began a relationship in early May 2017. In 2018, Opiol became pregnant. In December 2018, Opiol told Toom she would move to Florida if their relationship did not improve. In April 2019, Opiol moved to Florida and two weeks later gave birth. Toom remained in Iowa. On May 21, Toom filed a petition in Linn County, Iowa, to establish custody, visitation, and child support. Toom requested joint legal custody and shared physical care of the child.1 Opiol filed a motion to dismiss, challenging Iowa’s jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, Iowa Code chapter 598B (2019). Opiol stated the child was born in and had never left Florida—making Florida the home jurisdiction of the child, and the only state with jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination. The district court found it did not have jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination under the UCCJEA and granted Opiol’s motion to dismiss. Toom appeals. 1In the alternative, Toom requested that he be granted physical care of the child with liberal visitation for Opiol. 3 II. Standard of Review We review questions of subject matter jurisdiction under the UCCJEA de novo. In re Jorgensen, 627 N.W.2d 550, 555 (Iowa 2001). III. Jurisdiction Toom claims Opiol’s significant connections to Iowa and her move to Florida mere weeks before the child’s birth should provide Iowa with jurisdiction. He also argues on appeal that Florida should decline jurisdiction because Iowa is a more appropriate forum. Iowa Code section 598B.201 specifies four conditions under which Iowa has the jurisdiction to make an initial child-custody determination: (a) This state is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding, or was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from this state but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in this state. (b) A court of another state does not have jurisdiction under paragraph “a”, or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this state is the more appropriate forum under …Original document