In re Visitation of Persons of J.C.B., 091619 NVSC, 76831

Docket Nº:76831
Party Name:IN THE MATTER OF THE VISITATION OF THE PERSONS OF: J.C.B.; K.R.B.; L.B.B.; AND L.A.B., MINORS. v. JUSTIN C. B., Respondent. PAULA B., Appellant,
Judge Panel:Hardesty, J., Stiglich, J., Silver, J. Hon. Linda Marquis, District Judge, Family Court Division Robert E. Gaston, Settlement Judge
Case Date:September 16, 2019
Court:Supreme Court of Nevada

IN THE MATTER OF THE VISITATION OF THE PERSONS OF: J.C.B.; K.R.B.; L.B.B.; AND L.A.B., MINORS.

PAULA B., Appellant,

v.

JUSTIN C. B., Respondent.

No. 76831

Supreme Court of Nevada

September 16, 2019

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

ORDER OF AFFIRMANCE

This is an appeal from a final order dismissing a petition for grandparent visitation and a postjudgment order awarding attorney fees and costs. Eighth Judicial District Court, Family Court Division, Clark County; Linda Marquis, Judge.

Justin C. B. is the father of J.C.B., K.R.B., L.B.B., and L.A.B. Gretchen W. B. is the mother of J.C.B. and K.R.B. Stephanie B. is the mother of L.B.B. and L.A.B.

As pertinent here, 1 Gretchen was a member of the Hualapai Indian Tribe in Arizona. She filed for divorce from Justin in the Hualapai Tribal Court and received temporary custody of J.C.B. and K.R.B., who are also members of the Tribe. The Tribal Court granted the divorce in June 2017. After Gretchen passed away unexpectedly in December 2017, the Tribal Court restored legal and physical custody of J.C.B. and K.R.B. to Justin.

J.C.B. and K.R.B. moved to Clark County to live with Justin, Stephanie, L.B.B., and L.A.B. on December 29, 2017. On May 17, 2018, Justin's mother, Paula B., filed a petition in Eighth Judicial District Court for grandparent visitation of all four of Justin's children pursuant to NRS 125C.050. After sending Paula a letter apprising her of jurisdictional concerns with her petition, Justin filed an opposition and countermotion to dismiss the petition and to award Justin attorney fees and costs. The district court found that Paula did not allege facts that would allow her to seek visitation as to L.B.B. or L.A.B., and that the Hualapai Tribe, not the Nevada court, had jurisdiction over J.C.B. and K.R.B., and accordingly granted Justin's motion. The district court also awarded Justin attorney fees and costs under NRS 18.010 and EDCR 7.60, as the court found Justin was the prevailing party and the petition was frivolous. This appeal followed.

Paula first advances various arguments as to why the district court had jurisdiction here, including that NRS 125C.050 expressly provides jurisdiction, that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) do not apply to these facts, and that if the UCCJEA does apply then NRS 125A.305 provides Nevada with jurisdiction. We disagree, and conclude the district court properly dismissed the petition.[2]

We review questions of standing and subject matter jurisdiction de novo. Arguello v. Sunset Station, Inc., 127 Nev. 365, 368, 252 P.3d 206, 208 (2011); Friedman v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 127 Nev. 842, 847, 264 P.3d 1161, 1165 (2011). We also review de novo questions of statutory interpretation. Valdez v. Aguilar, 132 Nev. 388, 390, 373 P.3d 84, 85 (2016). When interpreting a statute, we strive to give effect to a statute's plain meaning where the language is unambiguous. Id. Whenever possible, we interpret statutes within a common statutory scheme in harmony to avoid unreasonable results and to further the general purpose of the statutes. S. Nev. Homebuilders Ass'n v. Clark Cty., 121 Nev. 446, 449, 117 P.3d 171, 173 (2005).

As an initial matter, we conclude Paula does not have standing to petition for visitation under NRS 125C.050 as to either L.B.B. or L.A.B., as she has not pleaded facts that meet the statutory prerequisites to obtain a right of visitation. See Stockmeier v. State, Dep't of Corr., 122 Nev. 385, 393, 135 P.3d 220, 225-26 (2006) (explaining that a party has standing where a statute confers a right upon that party), abrogated on other grounds by Buzz Stew, LLC v. City of K Las Vegas, 124 Nev. 224, 181 P.3d 670 (2008). Specifically, Paula has not shown that she has standing under NRS 125C.050(1), as Stephanie and Justin are both living, married and not separated, and maintain their parental rights.3 Nor does Paula have standing under NRS 125C.050(2), as she does not assert that either child ever resided with her. We therefore only consider whether the district court had jurisdiction over J.C.B. and K.R.B. so as to consider Paula's petition for visitation with them.4

Paula argues that NRS 125C.050 provides the district court with jurisdiction over grandparent visitation actions. The provisions of NRS Chapter 125C address child custody and visitation determinations. NRS 125C.050 provides that "the district court in the county in which the child resides may grant" a grandparent's petition for visitation. NRS 125C.050(1). But NRS 125C.050 addresses the appropriate court within the state to consider a relative visitation petition. This provision establishes venue, not jurisdiction. See, e.g., Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 4 cmt. h (Am. Law Inst. 1982) (distinguishing between jurisdiction, which governs "whether a state may adjudicate a matter at all," and venue, which determines "which court within the state is the proper forum"). Thus, NRS 125C.050 does not grant the district court jurisdiction to consider Paula's petition.

Having concluded NRS 125C.050 addresses venue, not jurisdiction, we consider whether the district court had jurisdiction to consider Paula's petition under the UCCJEA, codified as NRS Chapter 125A. See Friedman, 127 Nev. at 847, 264 P.3d at 1165 (explaining the UCCJEA was codified as Chapter 125A); see also NRS 125A.005. Paula contends that the UCCJEA does not apply where, as here, one of the parents is deceased and there cannot be an interstate jurisdiction argument between parents, and therefore the district court erred in finding that it lacked jurisdiction under the UCCJEA to consider her petition.

The UCCJEA sets out jurisdiction and...

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