What Divorced Parents Need to Know About the UCCJEA

Every year, parental separation and divorce affects over one million children in the U.S.. Because today’s society is a lot more mobile than preceding generations, it is not unusual for the parents of these children to move to different cities and even different states. In the latter instance, jurisdictional issues can arise that divorced parents need to know about.

The UCCJEA Explained

At one time, custody matters were decided according to where the child currently lived, even if they were newly arrived in the state. This motivated parents to move to jurisdictions that were favorable to their custody goals. Connecticut’s codification of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) in 1997, which replaced an earlier Uniform Act, tempered this activity.

While it cannot be used to decide which parent has custody or how visitation is to be structured, the UCCJEA does determine which state has jurisdiction over certain child custody disputes. It maintains that family courts connected to the child’s ‘home state’ has the exclusive right to determine these matters.

Home State Defined

The UCCJEA defines a home state as the state where the child has lived with their parent for at least six consecutive months before or up to the custody proceeding. If the child has not lived in a single state for six consecutive months, the court of the state where the child and at least one parent have “significant connections” and where substantial evidence related to the custody determination exists may assume jurisdiction.  If, for any reason, neither circumstance applies to a particular state, then any state with an appropriate connection to the child can make a custody determination.

Let’s look an an example. You and your spouse divorce in Connecticut and the court awards her custody of the children. Soon afterwards, she moves to New York with them. Months later, you decide to file for a change of custody. Even though New York is currently the ‘home state’ for the children, Connecticut courts will retain jurisdiction because initial custody determination was made in that state and you still live here.

If an emergency springs up that threatens the welfare of the child, any state may assume temporary jurisdiction to take protective measures, but once the urgency subsides, the child’s home state will have priority.

As you can see, child custody matters become complicated once state lines are crossed. For advice on moving with your children after divorce or modifying a custody order issued by a Connecticut court, please contact Freed Marcroft today. We will give you the best applicable advice for your situation, so that you and your children continue to maintain a strong and cherished bond.

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