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Case Style: In re the Marriage of: Michael Martin Huege and Heather Marie Huege
Case Number: 1 CA-CV 12-0764
Judge: Patricia A Orozco
Court: Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One
Plaintiff's Attorney: Douglas C. Gardner and Karl T. Sholes, Davis Miles McGuire Gardner, PLLC, Gilbert, Arizona
Defendant's Attorney: Heather Marie Huege in propria persona
Description: ¶1 Michael Martin Huege (Father) appeals the family
court’s order granting a motion for change of jurisdiction filed
by Heather Marie Huege (Mother). For the reasons that follow,
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
¶2 Father and Mother were married in Idaho in October
2007 and moved to Arizona in October 2009. In September 2010,
Mother gave birth to T.H.
¶3 During the marriage, there were numerous incidents of
domestic violence, including two incidents that involved T.H.
The first incident occurred less than three weeks after T.H. was
born, when Father was arrested after he punched Mother in the
face and neck numerous times while she was feeding T.H.
¶4 Father was also arrested in October 2011 after he
grabbed Mother by her neck and then fell on T.H. while Mother
was struggling to get away from him. Additionally, Father
refused to cooperate when the police arrived and assaulted a
police officer. Father pled guilty to aggravated assault per
domestic violence and attempted aggravated assault on a police
officer for the October 2011 incident. As a term of his
probation, Father agreed not to have any contact with Mother for
¶5 Three days after Father’s October 2011 arrest, Mother
returned to Idaho with T.H. She testified that she left Arizona
to escape the domestic abuse and returned to Idaho because her
father and other members of her extended family lived there.
¶6 In January 2012, Father filed a petition for
dissolution of marriage in Arizona. Mother filed her own
divorce complaint in Idaho one month later, as well as a motion
for change of jurisdiction in Arizona. In her motion, she
requested that the Arizona family court decline child custody
jurisdiction because Arizona is an inconvenient forum and
because of Father’s unjustifiable conduct.
¶7 After holding an evidentiary hearing, the family court
in Arizona granted Mother’s motion. In its ruling, the court
stated that although Arizona was T.H.’s home state,1 it was an
inconvenient forum under A.R.S. § 25-1037 (2007) and Idaho was a
more appropriate forum to handle the child custody matter.
¶8 Father timely appealed. We have jurisdiction pursuant
to A.R.S. §§ 12-120.21.A.1 (2003) and -2101 (Supp. 2012).
¶9 Father contends that the family court erred in
declining to exercise jurisdiction after it determined that
Arizona is an inconvenient forum under the Uniform Child Custody
1 Home state is defined as “[t]he state in which a child
lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least
six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a
child custody proceeding.” Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.)
section 25-1002.7(a) (Supp. 2012) (We cite to the current
version of applicable statutes when no revisions material to
this decision have occurred.).
Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).2 He alleges that in
making this determination, the family court abused its
discretion by (1) declining jurisdiction even though Arizona is
T.H.’s home state, (2) improperly applying one factor and
ignoring the other seven factors of A.R.S. § 25-1037.B., and (3)
allowing Mother to forum shop.
¶10 We review a family court’s ruling on the issue of
inconvenient forum for an abuse of discretion. Tiscornia v.
Tiscornia, 154 Ariz. 376, 377, 742 P.2d 1362, 1363 (App. 1987).
Abuse of discretion occurs when “the reasons given by the court
for its action are clearly untenable, legally incorrect, or
amount to a denial of justice.” State v. Chapple, 135 Ariz.
281, 297 n.18, 660 P.2d 1208, 1224 n.18 (1983).
A. Home State
¶11 Father asserts that Arizona, as T.H.’s home state,
should have jurisdiction. He argues that pursuant to the
UCCJEA, priority should be given to a finding of home state
jurisdiction over any other jurisdictional provisions.
¶12 Both parties agree that the trial court properly found
that Arizona is T.H.’s home state. However, pursuant to A.R.S.
§ 25-1037.A, a court that has jurisdiction to make a child
2 Arizona adopted the UCCJEA in 2001. Welch-Doden v.
Roberts, 202 Ariz. 201, 208, ¶ 29, 42 P.3d 1166, 1173 (App.
custody determination “may decline to exercise its jurisdiction
at any time if it determines that it is an inconvenient forum
under the circumstances and that a court of another state is a
more appropriate forum.” Because we agree with the family
court, as discussed below, that Arizona is an inconvenient
forum, Father’s argument is without merit.
B. Inconvenient Forum
¶13 Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-1037.B states that
before a family court makes its determination regarding “whether
it is appropriate for a court of another state to exercise
jurisdiction,” it must “consider all relevant factors,”
including the eight enumerated in the statute.3 Father argues
that the family court only focused on the first factor regarding
whether domestic violence occurred between the parties. He also
contends that the court erred in applying this factor because it
failed to recognize that Arizona is the state that could best
3 The eight enumerated factors are (1) whether domestic
violence has occurred and is likely to continue in the future
and which state could best protect the parties and the child;
(2) the length of time the child has resided outside Arizona;
(3) the distance between the court in Arizona and the court in
the state that would assume jurisdiction; (4) the relative
financial circumstances of the parties; (5) whether there is any
agreement of the parties as to which state should assume
jurisdiction; (6) the location and nature of the evidence
required to resolve the pending litigation, including testimony
of the child; (7) the ability of the court of each state to
decide the issue expeditiously and the procedures necessary to
present the evidence; and (8) the familiarity of the court of
each state with the facts and issues in the pending litigation.
A.R.S. § 25-1037.B.
protect Mother and T.H. and merely focused on the fact that
Mother had family support in Idaho. We disagree.
¶14 Father argues Arizona can best protect Mother and T.H.
because police in Arizona responded in a timely manner to the
reports of domestic violence and Arizona issued a no contact
order between Father and Mother. However, despite the efforts
of the courts and law enforcement in Arizona to protect Mother,
she continued to remain at risk while living in Arizona. The
police arrested Father in September 2010, yet Father again
engaged in domestic violence against Mother and T.H. and was
arrested in October 2011. Moreover, “[o]rders of protection
have proven inadequate to guard women and children from further
abuse.” See Stoneman v. Drollinger, 314 Mont. 139, 148, ¶ 25,
64 P.3d 997, 1002 (2003) (citing a two-year study in which
almost half of 663 male batterers against whom an order of
protection had been filed assaulted their victims again during
the study period).
¶15 During the evidentiary hearing, Mother testified that
if she had to return to Arizona for a hearing, she did not have
a safe place to stay because she did not know anyone in Arizona.
She also stated that she feared for her and T.H.’s safety.
Although Father believes that the family court should not have
considered Mother’s family in Idaho, we believe that a finding
that Mother and T.H. have family support in Idaho is relevant in
determining which state could best protect them. Therefore, we
find that the family court properly weighed the first enumerated
¶16 Additionally, Father is incorrect that the family
court ignored the seven remaining factors. Pursuant to A.R.S.
25-1037.B, a family court is only required to “consider all
relevant factors.” (Emphasis added). In this case, the court
held an evidentiary hearing on Mother’s motion for change of
jurisdiction and before issuing its ruling, it “considered the
evidence, testimony and arguments of counsel.” The family court
also made findings as to each of the factors enumerated in
A.R.S. § 25-1037.B. Therefore, we find the court complied with
the statute’s requirements.
¶17 Father concedes that the majority of the factors are
neutral, yet he believes that at least two of the factors weigh
in favor of Arizona retaining jurisdiction. Assuming, without
deciding, that Father’s analysis of the factors is correct, we
do not find that the family court erred in declining
jurisdiction. The family court determined that there was “a
continuing and escalating pattern of domestic violence by
Father” and that Idaho could best protect Mother. The family
court properly gave more weight to this factor. See Stoneman,
314 Mont. at 148-49, ¶ 26, 64 P.3d at 1002 (urging “courts to
give priority to the safety of victims of domestic violence when
considering jurisdictional issues under the UCCJEA”).
¶18 Although Father may disagree with the court’s
application of the factors, there is nothing in the statute that
requires the family court to apply the enumerated factors
mechanically. Accordingly, we find that the family court did
not abuse its discretion in declining jurisdiction under A.R.S.
C. Forum Shopping
¶19 Father asserts that the trial’s ruling allowed Mother
to forum shop, contrary to well-established Arizona and United
States law. Because we determined above that the family court
properly declined jurisdiction under A.R.S. § 25-1037 because
Arizona is an inconvenient forum, we need not address this
D. Attorney Fees
¶20 Finally, Father requests his attorney fees and costs
on appeal pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-324 (Supp. 2012). We deny his
request. Mother, however, is entitled to her costs upon her
compliance with Arizona Rule of Civil Appellate Procedure 21.
Outcome: ¶21 For the foregoing reasons, we affirm.