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Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

I want to talk to you about child custody jurisdiction.  This has come up for me a couple times actually in the last week and it's a kind of an important topic.  If you haven’t heard of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act you need to learn about it.  It is also known in the legal world as UCCJEA.   It's an act that governs jurisdiction of child custody disputes and as I understand it all states except for one state subscribe to the UCCJEA.   

This is actually something I just learned a couple of days ago because I was consulting with one of my Command the Courtroom viewers who happens to have a case in Arizona.   She lives in Boston but the case was originated in Arizona and apparently Massachusetts does not subscribe to the UCCJEA.   The UCCJEA governs how jurisdiction is established and generally speaking in order for jurisdiction to be established in a place you and your children notably actually the children need to be residing in that place for at least six months.

I've had many cases over my years of experience where somebody says I don't want Arizona to have jurisdiction so I prefer California to have jurisdiction, so I'm just going to move the kids to California and file my paperwork there.   Or they may be saying I have more family support in California so I want to move the kids to California and buy all my paperwork there. The problem is that if the kids have only lived in California less than six months and unfortunately California is not going to have jurisdiction.  Unfortunately or fortunately it depends on who you are.   The place for jurisdiction lies is where the children have resided for the past six months.

If you decide that you're going to get up and move the children to a state and your ex is left behind in the first state and your ex files paperwork to start child custody proceedings, then the state wherever the children have resided for the last six months in this case the first state would be more jurisdiction resides.   Even if you and the children are now residing in a new state and

It is possible and I've had it in cases that I've handled where somebody has moved and they moved the kids and the person files in the first state and says I want the kids back here.   The judge orders the children to come back.   If you're considering starting child custody proceedings and you're thinking about moving to a different state or a different location you really need to review the UCCJEA or talk with an attorney who is familiar with the UCCJEA.

It's important for you to have an understanding where jurisdiction lies.   The UCCJEA also applies in a modification case.   Say jurisdiction was established in one state five years ago.   Five years past and now maybe you've moved with the kids or the other parties moved and you want to initiate new child custody proceedings.   Jurisdiction will lie with the first state even if you and the children have moved to another state.   You have to follow those rules to determine whether and how to get jurisdiction.   The first thing the court is going to look at is whether jurisdiction is proper.   They’re always going to look at it in a child custody case.  When you're thinking of filing or you're thinking of modifying, go to the UCCJEA unless you live in Massachusetts to make sure that jurisdiction is proper in the place that you're filing. If you don't do that then your case could be dismissed.  If you're looking to change jurisdiction look at the rules on changing one of the ways that you can change jurisdiction is by alleging that  the state where jurisdiction has laid in the past is an inconvenient forum.  What this means is the children are no longer residing there and their history is not there it's less convenient for you to conduct litigation from where the children are now.   There's always a lot of play with the jurisdiction rules but you have to follow.  Always check and follow the rules in your state.