IN THE MATTER OF ERIC MCANDREWS AND SACHET WOODSON
Argued: May 15, 2018
Circuit Court-Nashua Family Division
Shanelaris & Schirch, PLLC, of Nashua (Catherine E.
Shanelaris and Jennifer E. Warburton on the brief, and Ms.
Warburton orally), for the petitioner.
White & Fontaine, P.C., of Nashua (Israel F. Piedra on
the brief and orally), for the respondent.
petitioner, Eric McAndrews, appeals an order recommended by a
Marital Master (DalPra, M.) and approved by the
Circuit Court (Introcaso, J.) dismissing his
petition to modify a parenting plan on inconvenient forum
grounds. The parenting plan pertains to the petitioner's
child with whom he shares custody with the respondent, Sachet
Woodson. On appeal, the petitioner argues that the trial
court erred in dismissing his petition because it conducted
an improper and incomplete inconvenient forum analysis
pursuant to RSA 458-A:18 (Supp. 2017), a provision of the
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
(UCCJEA). See generally RSA 458-A (Supp. 2017). We
vacate and remand.
record supports the following facts. The parties are the
unmarried parents of their child, who was 4 years of age at
the time of the hearing that is the subject of this appeal.
In January 2014, the parties negotiated and filed a joint
parenting plan that was subsequently approved by the trial
court. The court-approved plan provided that: (1) the parties
would exercise joint decision-making responsibility for their
child; (2) the child would reside with the petitioner four
months in any given year; and (3) the respondent would
maintain primary residential responsibility for the child.
The parties further stipulated that they would revisit the
question of their child's legal residence within six
months of her enrollment in kindergarten. Finally, the plan
permitted the respondent and child to relocate to California,
but established that any "[f]urther relocations must be
approved by the Court" and that New Hampshire
"shall retain jurisdiction over the child for future
the trial court's approval of the original parenting
plan, the petitioner has continuously resided in New
Hampshire and maintained significant visitation and parenting
time in this state. In 2014, the trial court entertained and
denied the petitioner's motion to modify the parenting
plan. The trial court also ordered a modification to the
petitioner's child support obligation in April 2015.
2015, the respondent and child moved from California to
Indiana without the trial court's approval or the
petitioner's prior knowledge. In February 2017, the
petitioner filed a petition with the trial court seeking to
modify the parenting plan to provide him with primary
residential responsibility for the child. As grounds for this
modification, the petitioner complained that the respondent
had moved the child to a different state without court
approval, and alleged that the child was undernourished,
subjected to physical discipline, and that her home life had
little structure. Approximately six weeks later, the
respondent filed a petition in Indiana seeking a custody
order establishing parenting time in that state without
informing the court in Indiana of the parenting plan or the
pending petition to modify in New Hampshire. She also filed a
motion to dismiss the modification petition in New Hampshire
claiming that New Hampshire did not have jurisdiction.
3, 2017, the marital master held a hearing, at which the
parties made offers of proof with respect to the pending
motion to dismiss and the petition to modify. In an order
that was subsequently approved by the trial court, the master
found that both New Hampshire and Indiana had jurisdiction
over the matter and that its task was to determine whether
New Hampshire was "the better venue or an inconvenient
forum" pursuant to the terms of the UCCJEA. RSA
458-A:18, II provides, in pertinent part, that when deciding
whether New Hampshire "is an inconvenient forum under
the circumstances and a court of another state is a more
appropriate forum," trial courts "shall consider
all relevant factors, including":
(a) Whether domestic violence has occurred and is likely to
continue in the future and which state could best protect the
parties and the child;
(b) The length of time the child has resided outside this
(c) The distance between the court in this state and the
court in the state that would ...