Legal Translation Services and
Determining Jurisdiction when there is No ‘Home’

Legal Translation Services for Child Custody Cases

We’ve blogged about legal document translation and legal interpretation in the context of child relocation issues. In custody decisions, jurisdiction depends on identifying the child’s home state – but what if there isn’t one? This is often the issue in international custody disputes where there is always a need for multilingual legal translation services. To illustrate, we’ll look at the court’s analysis in the case of Grace G v. Beeno G, where the child was living overseas with a grandparent. In this case, the child’s parents moved from Trinidad to the US (mother to New York, father to Florida), leaving the daughter in Trinidad with the father’s mother. Years later (after a divorce with no mention of the daughter was filed), the mother seized the daughter in Florida and moved her to New York. The father filed for custody in Florida. The question – who has jurisdiction?

New York law holds that child custody jurisdiction is in the state in which a child lived with a parent or person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of the proceeding. However, in the case at hand the daughter was not in either New York or Florida for this required time period. So what about Trinidad? According to the New York law, “a court shall treat a foreign country as if it were a state of the United States”. Case solved?

Not exactly.

The statute says residency does not count for ‘home state’ purposes unless it is in ‘the state in which a child lived with a parent or person acting as a parent’. To determine this, the court uses a two-pronged test:

Did the person in question (grandmother) have physical custody for a period of six consecutive months, including any temporary absence, within one year immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding?

The person had been awarded legal custody by a court or claims a right to legal custody.
In the case at hand the grandmother fails to meet the second prong of the test – a decision reached after the use of foreign language translations of Trinidad court documents. Thus the court turned to an alternative route for determination. Using the ‘close connection’ test, the court ruled for New York jurisdiction.

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