UCCJEA May Decide Your Child’s Future

If you’re a parent experiencing divorce or other partner separation, a judge is likely to settle many of the questions over custody of the children.

But which judge? If you and the other parent live in different states, which state’s laws apply? What if one parent has moved the children to another state, perhaps where the children may seem out of reach or where the laws might seem to be more favorable?

A uniform agreement for solving a thorny issue

Almost all states have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act or UCCJEA. Its primary purpose is to decide this question of jurisdiction, or which state’s laws and judges will decide all the rest of the child custody details.

Being “uniform,” or the same in every state, the two or more state court systems involved usually have little trouble agreeing which state should hear the arguments and make the decisions.

Orderly procedure for choosing a state

If UCCJEA’s rules for choosing the venue seem complicated, it’s because they’re trying to allow for all possibilities, permit states to use their best judgement, and provide guidance for what happens next if previous steps have failed to give a good answer.

UCCJEA relies on reliable evidence and helpful information, often from several teams of attorneys working in multiple states. It’s important to have an experienced lawyer who knows how to coordinate with out-of-state counsel and provide you with comprehensive counsel.

How the jurisdiction is chosen

First, the court clears the way by determining if it’s an emergency for the child or if custody has already been or is being decided by a court.

If not, thenthe child’s “home state” is considered, defined as the state where the child has lived with a parent for the last six months before the court proceedings begin.

If no such state exists, then a state to which the child has “significant connections” is chosen, which could mean personal relationships, doctors, child care or other factors.

Sometimes a state decides it’s an inappropriate choice to take on jurisdiction because it thinks the child or others would be safer from domestic violence elsewhere. Maybe it believes the child was kept in the state for six months to rig the state of jurisdiction. That state may decide to maintain “clean hands,” and refuse to reward such behavior.

Once it’s decided which state will have jurisdiction over custody decisions, then the central questions about custody can begin to be argued and decided.

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The Law Offices of Stacy D. Heard, PLLC

Stacy Heard is an accomplished and well-respected family law attorney in Seattle, Washington who has served clients for over 20 years. Stacy specializes in matrimonial and family law. She handles matters of divorce, high-conflict parenting plan/child custody issues, international custody disputes and Hague Convention cases, complex financial issues, relocation, restraining orders, child support, and modifications of Parenting Plans and Child Support Orders.