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What is Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act?

Custody arrangements can become an enormous source of conflict, especially when the parents live in different states, or when one parent chooses to move out of state. Because different states maintain separate statutes that govern how judges determine custody and other parental issues, the decision of a judge in one state may not be honored by a judge in another state. Much of this conflict has been resolved through the near-universal adoption of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (recognized in all states except Massachusetts and Vermont), but there do remain some opportunities for interstate conflict.

Under the UCCJE, states must follow a series of four qualifying standards to determine when one state may modify another state's court order regarding custody. First, the state making the determination must be considered the child's "home state," which usually entails at least six months of residence. Second, a court must also consider the ties that the child may have to people in the new state — family other than a parent, care providers, or friends. Third, the new state must consider the safety of the child. If a child has been removed from one state and taken to another to escape harm or abusive behavior, a judge may consider this in overriding another state's court order. Fourth, a judge may make a determination with relative freedom if there is no state that meets the previous three standards.

In order to comply with the UCCJE, the new state's judge must meet at least one of the four standards in order to issue a new court order over another state's order. The UCCJE is useful in many ways, from helping to unify the disparate laws governing custody across many states, to helping reduce the instances of a one parent kidnapping a child and asking a new state's judge for a full custody order.

If you are struggling with a custody conflict, it is important to have competent guidance. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can fully understand the finer point so the law as it relates to your situation, and ensure that the rights and best interests of you and your child will be protected.

Source: Findlaw, "Interstate Custody Arrangements," accessed Jan. 04, 2017

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