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Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was designed to deter interstate parental kidnapping and to promote uniform jurisdiction and enforcement provisions in interstate child custody and visitations cases. The UCCJEA is a uniform state law that all states can adopt to deter interstate parental kidnapping.

The UCCJEA was approved in 1997 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) to replace its 1968 Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA). NCCUSL drafts and proposes laws in areas where it believes uniformity is important, but the laws become effective only upon adoption by state legislatures.

The UCCJEA governs state courts’ jurisdiction to make and modify child-custody determinations, which includes custody and visitation orders. The UCCJEA requires state courts to enforce valid child-custody and visitation determinations made by sister state courts. It also establishes innovative interstate enforcement procedures.

The UCCJEA is intended as an improvement over the UCCJA. The UCCJEA determines which states’ courts have and should exercise jurisdiction to dictate standards for making or modifying child custody and visitation decisions. A court must have jurisdiction before it can proceed to consider the merits of a case. The UCCJEA does not apply to child support cases.
The following provisions are in the UCCJEA:
  • Priority is granted to home state jurisdiction.
  • Exclusive, continuing jurisdiction in the decree state is preserved.
  • Courts are authorized to exercise emergency jurisdiction in cases of child abuse and/or domestic violence.
  • A state can not modify a determination by another state, except in cases of emergency jurisdiction or a state decided they no longer have jurisdiction.
  • Rules governing forum determination are redefined.
  • Courts are directed to decline jurisdiction created by unjustifiable conduct.
  • Procedures for enforcement of interstate custody and visitation determination are provided.
  • A registration process for interstate custody determination is created.
  • The issuance of warrants to protect at-risk children of being removed from the state is authorized.

The UCCJEA assures that a single court will have jurisdiction over custody proceedings, even if a parent or guardian has abducted the child.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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