Iowa Has No Child Custody Jurisdiction over Baby in Illinois Hospital

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: uniform child custody jurisdiction act (UCCJA).

In re B.C., Minor Child. IA uniform child custody jurisdiction act

This was a termination of parental rights case involving an infant. Prior to the child's birth, the mother lived in the Quad Cities and moved frequently between Iowa and Illinois. At the time of the birth, the mother had three other children living in Iowa who were the subject of child in need of assistance (CINA) petitions.

About two or three months prior to the birth of B.C., the mother moved in with her mother in Rock Island, Illinois, and the baby was born in January 2013 in an Illinois hopsital. Two days later, the Iowa Juvenile Court in Scott County made an order for temporary removal. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) took the baby directly from the Illinois hospital and placed him with an Iowa foster family. During the case, DHS stated that the State of Illinois agreed to let Iowa exercise jurisdiction.

The District Court in Scott County, Iowa, concluded that it had jurisdiction over the child. It noted that the mother lived in Iowa prior to moving in with her mother, that the father lived in Iowa, and that the other children had been placed with Iowa foster families. The trial court thus held that it could exercise jurisdiction in what it called an "emergency situation."

The mother appealed to the Iowa Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals reversed, since the child was not present in the state. It held that for the Iowa courts to have any kind of temporary emergency jurisdiction, the child must first be present in the state of Iowa. It noted that a contrary reading of the statutes would expand the jurisdiction of Iowa courts far beyond what is allowed by law.

The court noted that this came from the plain language of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), Iowa Code 598B.204, which grants temporary emergency jurisdiction "if the child is present in this state and the child has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child." (Emphasis added.)

For these reasons, the Court of Appeals set aside all of the orders in the case. The mother was represented in the appeal by Davenport attorney Lori J. Kieffer-Garrison.

No. 13-1590 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 12, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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