Child custody cases can get very messy. To prevent problems with establishing a state’s right to enforce child custody/visitation or even to prevent parental kidnapping, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was created.
How the UCCJEA Impacts Child Custody and Visitation
This act provides consistency across the United States when it comes to the jurisdiction of a child custody case, including visitation issues. Most family codes are similar from one state to the next. However, there could be some differences.
UCCJEA determines which state has jurisdiction (authority) over a child custody/visitation matter. This would be very important if one parent lives in Texas and the other resides in a different state.
UCCJEA provides four jurisdictional grounds:
- home state – state in which a child lives for at least six months (if less than six months old, whichever state in which the child was born);
- significant connection – child has an established connection with a state;
- emergency – may be applicable in cases where a child has been abandoned or abused; and
- vacuum – no other state has jurisdiction.
How UCCJEA Impacts Initial and Emergency Child Custody Jurisdiction
The initial order of child custody always occurs in the home state. This also means the state has exclusive continuing jurisdiction. Sometimes, however, the right to exercise jurisdiction is declined or its determined it no longer applies. This would have to be based on the grounds that another state would be more appropriate.
In addition to proving that another state would be more appropriate in order to change the initial child custody order, there must be evidence of the following:
- child and parent(s) has an important connection to the other state (more than just physical presence); and
- significant proof regarding the child’s protection, care, or relationships.
The court in another state does not have the jurisdiction to modify an initial child custody order created in Texas. However, it could be allowed if it’s demonstrated the child and parents no longer reside in Texas or the home state determines it no longer has exclusive continuing jurisdiction.
Emergency jurisdiction can sometimes be exercised on a temporary basis. Let’s say a parent lives in Texas but the child’s home state is New Mexico. If it’s learned the child is in danger because of physical abuse, this may allow Texas to exercise emergency jurisdiction. Emergency jurisdiction is usually based on some type of mistreatment of the child. Other examples might include neglect (food, shelter, clothing, etc.), abandonment and other serious matters.
Sometimes the courts of both states will need to communicate with one another regarding a matter, especially in a situation where one is exercising emergency jurisdiction. Generally the parents can participate. But even if they can’t, they do have the right to present their side (through legal arguments and facts) before a decision is rendered.
Parents facing child custody or visitation disputes in the Dallas area should contact an attorney at Warren & Migliaccio to review the details of their case and discuss their legal options. Call 888-584-9614 or contact us online.