IN THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT
GAMAS-CASTELLANOS, Erick ) Clark Circuit Court Cause No. David, ) 10C01-0205-DR-120 ) appellant, ) Court of Appeals Cause No. ) 10A01-0303-CV-104 v. ) ) Supreme Court Cause No. GAMAS, Catherine Marie, ) 10S01-0401-CV-11 ) appellee. )
Erick David Gamas-Castellanos (Father) and Catherine Marie Gamas (Mother) divorced in Texas.
The Texas decree granted Mother permanent physical custody of the parties two children
and granted Father visitation. Mother thereafter moved with the children to Indiana.
Later, Mother sent the younger child to stay with Father in the
Netherlands. Father subsequently moved to Louisiana with the younger child.
Mother objected to the childs living in Louisiana with Father. She registered
the Texas dissolution decree in the Clark Circuit Court in Indiana. Mother
then traveled to Louisiana and brought the younger child back to Indiana, based
on the registered Texas decree which gave her custody of both children.
On June 14, 2002, Father filed in Louisiana a motion that requested a
determination of the custody of the children. Mother appeared in the Louisiana
action and filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that Louisiana lacked subject matter
jurisdiction. Louisianas version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), like
Indianas, is similar to the uniform act. On October 28, 2002, the Louisiana
trial court entered an order finding that under its UCCJA law, Louisiana was
the home state of the younger child and therefore had jurisdiction to decide
custody issues concerning that child. The court ordered the return of the
younger child to Fathers physical custody and placement of the permanent custody issue
on its docket. However, the Louisiana court found that under the UCCJA,
it lacked jurisdiction to decide custody issues regarding the older child.
An appeal ensued. In an unpublished disposition, the Louisiana Court of Appeals
affirmed, finding no error in the trial courts conclusion that Louisiana courts have
jurisdiction over the custody of the younger child. Gamas v. Gamas, Cause
No. 2002-CW-2651 (La. Ct. App., Jan. 23, 2003).
In the meantime, on July 9, 2002, Mother had filed a motion to
modify visitation in the Clark Circuit Court in Indiana. Father responded with
motions asserting, in part, that a Louisiana court had already ruled that it
had jurisdiction to decide custody of the younger child, had directed return of
the child to Father, and that Indiana courts were precluded from asserting jurisdiction
over the custody of that child.
In orders issued February 10 and February 14, 2003, the Clark Circuit Court
concluded that, contrary to the determination of the Louisiana courts, Indiana was the
home state of both children and that Indiana should exercise jurisdiction over the
On appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed. Gamas-Castellanos v. Gamas, 794
N.E.2d 1152 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003), vacated. We granted the Fathers petition
to transfer jurisdiction, thus vacating the opinion of the Court of Appeals.
See Ind. Appellate Rules 57, 58(A). We conducted oral argument on February
Because this appeal involves an issue of child custody, the Court has elected to expedite the case by issuing this dispositive published order rather than an opinion. See Ind. Appellate Rule 21(A). In sum, we conclude that Louisiana exercised jurisdiction in substantial conformity with the UCCJA, and therefore under Indiana Code § 31-17-3-6, the Clark Circuit Court should not have also exercised jurisdiction over custody of the younger child. Further, even if Louisiana erred in determining which state was the home state for purposes of deciding custody of the younger child, because the issue was conclusively litigated in Louisiana with both sides fully participating, the decision of the Louisiana court system is entitled to full faith and credit in Indiana. See Lee v. DeShaney, 457 N.E.2d 604, 607-08 (Ind. Ct. App. 1983).
For the forgoing reasons, the judgment of the Clark Circuit Court is reversed
in part. The matter is remanded to the trial court with directions
to vacate its judgment to the extent it exercises home state custody jurisdiction
over the parties younger child, and to take any other actions necessary and
consistent with this order.
The Clerk is directed to send copies of this order to all counsel
of record; to the Clark Circuit Court; and to West Publishing for publication
in the advance sheets and bound volumes of our reported decisions.
Done at Indianapolis, Indiana this 20th day of February, 2004.
/s/ Randall T. Shepard
Chief Justice of Indiana
All Justices concur.