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Jurisdiction continues until the court determines that there is not a significant connection with Texas and that substantial evidence concerning the children's care, protection, training, and personal relationships is no longer available in Texas. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 152.202(a)(1). Clearly, exclusive jurisdiction continues in the decree-granting state as long as a significant connection exists or substantial evidence is present.
Ann Marie and Robert Joseph Forlenza were divorced in Collin County, Texas, on March 1, 1996. The trial court granted the primary custody of the parties’ two children and the right to establish their primary physical residence to Robert. In 2001, Robert was offered a two-year contract job in Taipei, Taiwan. Subsequently, Ann requested a restraining order prohibiting Robert from relocating the children outside the United States, which the trial court granted. Robert filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to issue an initial child-custody order, and alternatively requesting the trial court to decline jurisdiction in favor of Virginia, where the children then resided with their father and his new wife. Robert then filed a second motion to dismiss, alleging that the court did not have exclusive continuing jurisdiction under Texas Family Code section 152.202(a) to modify its previous child-custody order. The trial court denied the motion. On appeal, the court of appeals concluded that the trial court had abused its discretion and granted Robert's petition for writ of mandamus, ordering the trial court to vacate its prior order and dismiss the case. Ann challenged the decision.
Did the trial court retain exclusive continuing jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act?
The supreme court found that, by alleging that the trial court's prior orders conferred exclusive continuing jurisdiction, the mother satisfied her initial statutory burden. Because the record established that the children visited Texas on a number of occasions and maintained a close relationship with their mother and other relatives residing in Texas, all important considerations under the Texas Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, Tex. Fam. Code Ann. ch. 152, the supreme court held that the children had a significant connection with Texas sufficient to support the trial court's exclusive continuing jurisdiction over the modification proceedings.