Saavedra V. Schmidt
Texas Court of Appeals
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This jurisdictional dispute between two sister state courts over a custody determination falls squarely within the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the UCCJEA). *fn1 See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 152.001-.317 (West 2002). Custody proceedings were initiated in the superior court of California, San Joaquin County (the California court) in 1993 when appellee Debra Kay Schmidt filed for separation and then for divorce from appellant Manuel E. Saavedra. Initially, Schmidt was awarded physical custody of the children, while Saavedra was granted only supervised visitation. Years later, Schmidt fled to Texas with the children in violation of the California court's orders. Incensed by Schmidt's conduct, the California court awarded sole legal custody of the children to Saavedra, a convicted child molester who had never enjoyed unsupervised visitation with the children; it further ordered no contact between Schmidt and the children. Following a series of legal proceedings and allegations of unseemly conduct by the parents, the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services involved itself in the dispute. A Texas court assumed temporary emergency jurisdiction and entered temporary orders regarding the placement of the children. See id. § 152.204. Following the directives of the UCCJEA, the Texas court attempted to communicate on several occasions with the California court, which enjoyed exclusive continuing jurisdiction under the Act. See id. §§ 152.204(d), .202. An extraordinary twist in this case not contemplated by the UCCJEA has been the California court's continued refusal to communicate with the Texas court regarding its concerns for the protection of these children. Despite its best efforts, the Texas court was unable to secure an acknowledgment from the California court that upon their return to California, the children's best interests would be addressed and they would not be placed in the home of Saavedra before that court required a complete home study and formulated a transition plan. Without such assurance, the Texas court refused to enforce the California order and entered additional orders regarding the custody of the children; those orders are the subject of this appeal.