What is the UCCJEA?

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a uniform state law that governs the jurisdiction and enforcement of child custody orders. The main goal of the UCCJEA is to resolve conflicts related to jurisdiction in child custody cases, especially when different states are involved. It seeks to prevent parents from "forum shopping" or moving to a different state in order to find a more favorable court to hear their child custody case.

Here are a few key components of the UCCJEA:

  1. Home State Jurisdiction: The UCCJEA gives priority to the child's "home state" when determining which state should have jurisdiction over a child custody matter. The “home state” is defined as the state where the child has lived with a parent for six consecutive months prior to the commencement of the proceeding (or since birth for children younger than six months).

  2. Exclusive, Continuing Jurisdiction: Once a state court assumes jurisdiction over a child custody case, that court generally retains exclusive, continuing jurisdiction for any future decisions regarding the child, as long as the child or one of the parents continues to reside in the state, or the parties have a significant connection with the state.

  3. Emergency Jurisdiction: The UCCJEA allows for a state to assume temporary emergency jurisdiction in certain cases where the child is present in the state and is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.

  4. Enforcement of Custody Orders: The Act contains provisions for the enforcement of child custody orders across state lines. Courts in different states are required to enforce valid child custody orders issued by the courts of another state.

  5. Communication Between Courts: The UCCJEA encourages communication between courts in different states to prevent simultaneous proceedings and conflicting custody orders.

The UCCJEA has been adopted by almost all states in the United States, making it a crucial framework for resolving interstate child custody disputes and ensuring that custody decisions are made in the jurisdiction that best protects the child's interest.