The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a uniform law that seeks to clarify jurisdictional conflicts in custody cases. It has been adopted by 49 U.S. States, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (Massachusetts is the only State that has not adopted the UCCJEA.)
In a time when families are fluid and mobile, the UCCJEA offers a way to deal with abduction and retention issues by giving a left-behind parent tools to deal with both jurisdictional and enforcement issues.
The intention of the UCCIEA is to help courts and parties determine which State has jurisdiction to make an initial determination of custody or to modify an existing custody order. One of the guideposts in this determination is the legal concept of home state. As a result, a minor child’s “location” is central to the UCCJEA. Put simply, a child’s home state is where the child has resided for a least six months (or less, if the child is an infant) prior to the commencement of a custody action. Temporary absences from the State of residence counts towards the six month period.
Determination of a child’s home state is different than a determination a parent or child’s legal residence. It is a fact dependent inquiry and goes beyond a child merely being present in a State. Determination of a child’s home state is also different than determining a child’s habitual residence under the 1980 Hague Convention. But, like with the 1980 Hague Convention’s concept of habitual residence, a court must determine what State is a child’s home state-even in the face of a close call. A child must have a home state because the court must determine whether it has jurisdiction to address custody or to modify a prior order. This makes it important to gather specific facts and information to assist the court in determining a child’s home state, as this determination will direct the course of the remaining litigation. It is one step in a journey of a thousand steps.
As stated above, with families becoming more fluid and mobile each day, the issues dealt with in family court are becoming increasingly complex, particularly as family disputes now have interstate or international dynamics. If you are faced with a custody or visitation matter that crosses either interstate or international boarders, it is crucial that you find an attorney who has experience in dealing with these nuanced issues.
We understand that no two families are alike and that every case should be resolved on an individual basis. With our focused approach and experience in litigating complex family court issues, we strive to resolve any number of situations, including international or interstate custody issues, with a tailored solution for your specific situation.
Blog post written by Attorney Jonathan W. Lounsberry
Contact Jonathan today at (864)585-5100 or email him at email@example.com