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Q: What is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”)?
A: The purposes of the UCCJEA are to avoid jurisdictional disputes with courts of other states in matters involving child custody and visitation. In addition, the Act aims to promote interstate cooperation, and to facilitate the interstate enforcement of custody and visitation orders.
Q: When does a court have jurisdiction to enter or modify a child custody or visitation order?
A: A court has jurisdiction to enter or modify such an order if the state is the child’s home state. In addition, jurisdiction is proper even if the state is not currently the home state of the child if the state was the child’s home state within the past six months and the child is absent from the state but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in the state.
Q: How is "home state" defined?
A: A child’s home state is the state in which the child lived with a parent (or a person acting as a parent) for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of the proceeding. Note that if the child is younger than six months old, then the home state will be where the child has lived since birth, disregarding temporary absences.
Q: Are there other instances in which a court can have jurisdiction over a child custody or visitation order?
A: If when applying the above rule, no state has or accepts home state jurisdiction, then another court will have jurisdiction provided that the child and at least one parent (or person acting as parent) have a significant connection with the state and substantial evidence concerning the child is available in the state. In addition, a court will have jurisdiction to enter or modify a child custody or visitation order if no other state has jurisdiction under any other test.
Q: Will a court that has jurisdiction over a child custody or visitation order ever lose that jurisdiction?
A: A court may lose jurisdiction but it will not lose jurisdiction until the court determines that neither the child nor the child’s parents (or persons acting as parents) continue to reside in the state or the child no longer has a significant relationship with the state and substantial evidence relating to the child is no longer available in the state.
Q: When might a court have emergency jurisdiction over a child custody or visitation matter?
A: A court has temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child or a sibling or parent is subjected to or threatened with abuse.