How Does a State Have Jurisdiction Over a Child Pursuant to the UCCJEA? 

It is not uncommon for divorced or single parents to decide to move to another state either for work purposes or to be closer to family.  As a result, the states have ratified legislation to allow other states to establish jurisdiction for purposes of child support and visitation.  Otherwise, a parent would be forced to return to the original state each time they needed to modify or establish visitation or child support.


The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) allows a State to establish proper jurisdiction over a child if: (1) the state which is the “home state” of the child, or was the child’s home state within six months immediately before the commencement of child custody proceedings if the child is absent from the state, but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in the state; or (2) if no state has jurisdiction under #1, or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this State is the more appropriate forum, and a) the child and the child’s parents, or the child and at least one parent or a person acting as a parent have a significant connection with this State other than mere physical presence; and b) substantial evidence is available in this State concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationship.  A State could also exercise jurisdiction if all the states who could be considered the home state have declined jurisdiction or no other state has is the home state of the minor child.


For purposes of the UCCJEA, “home state” is defined as the “state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child-custody proceeding.  Regardless of which state is the home state, a Court has the authority to exercise emergency jurisdiction to enter temporary emergency orders if it finds that a child is in danger and needs immediate protection.


As a result, if you recently moved to another state and want to seek support or visitation, you will need to wait at least six months for that new state to establish jurisdiction over your child, unless its an emergency.  If there are no other states that could be considered the home state or the possible home states have declined to exercise jurisdiction over your case, then the state you recently moved to could have jurisdiction over your child regardless of the six month waiting period.


It is important to note, however, that if there is already a custody or allocation of parenting responsibilities in place in one State you may need that court’s permission, or the other parent’s agreed consent, prior to removing your child from that State.  Otherwise, you may be forced to return to the original state or possibly lose custody of your child.


In either scenario, it is important to consult with an attorney to determine which state has jurisdiction over your child pursuant to the UCCJEA.

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