Adulthood Doesn’t Cut Off Court Jurisdiction

Authored by: Messick Law PLLC

This week the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that Minnesota Courts retain jurisdiction over
the custody of adult children in the case In Re the Custody of S.E.R.R.

S.E.R.R. was born in Guatemala and abandoned by his mother. S.E.R.R.’s grandparents raised
him in Guatemala while Father sent financial support from the U.S. In 2019, S.E.R.R. witnessed
a crime that put his safety at risk and his grandparents said they could no longer take care of
him. He fled to the U.S. where he was detained and put into removal proceedings by U.S.
Immigration. Father obtained S.E.R.R.’s release into his care and filed a custody petition as a
precursor to applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status under U.S. immigration laws to
spare S.E.R.R. from deportation.

Father’s petition was filed in April 2020 when S.E.R.R. was 17, however, it was not heard until
October 2020, when S.E.R.R. was 18 years old. The district court denied Father’s petition
reasoning it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because S.E.R.R. was now an adult. The Court of
Appeals held that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction at the time the petition was
filed and that no provision of Minn. Stat. § 518D.201 vacated that jurisdiction based on a child’s
age. Importantly, the Court of Appeals noted that the idea that a child is no longer a “child” when
they turn 18 is disputed by the definition of “child” contained in Minn. Stat. § 518A.26 which
includes individuals under 20 that are still enrolled in secondary school or those who incapable
of self-support by reason of physical or mental condition. The Court of Appeals held that
S.E.R.R. is still enrolled in secondary school and incapable of self-support and therefore fits the
definition of child under the statute.

What Does This Mean For Me?
Often parties are dealing with custody and child support issues for older children that remain
enrolled in school and may even be legal adults. Many families have adult children that need
on-going care by their parents. The Courts are still able to provide relief to parties in these
situations. Contact Messick Law PLLC today.

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