What is UCCJEA?

UCCJEA stands for “Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.” It is a uniform statutory scheme which has been adopted by most U.S. states and is designed to help resolve questions regarding child custody jurisdiction between states, to provide uniformity of decision among the states, and to clarify enforcement of out-of-state custody orders. It provides specific procedures for determining which state has jurisdiction of a child custody matter when a child changes residence between states.

In what types of cases does UCCJEA apply? When does UCCJEA not apply?

UCCJEA has been adopted by California and applies to any custody case. This includes marital actions (dissolution, nullity or legal separation), paternity actions, juvenile court dependency proceedings, guardianships, domestic violence proceedings, and termination of parental rights proceedings.

How does UCCJEA determine which state has jurisdiction?

There are four tests to determine whether California has custody of the minor child or children:

  • Is California the child’s “home state”? This is the the state where the child has lived with a parent or person acting as a parent for the six months immediately preceding the commencement of the custody proceeding (or since birth if the child is less than six months old). This test has the highest priority among the four tests.
  • Is there a substantial connection between the child and the state where the proceeding has commenced, as compared to any other state? This test applies only if there is no home state, or the home state has declined jurisdiction as an inconvenient forum.
  • If all other states with home state or substantial connection jurisdiction have declined to exercise their jurisdiction, is the proposed forum “more appropriate” to determine custody;
  • By default, if no other state would have jurisdiction under the first three tests, then the potential forum state can exercise jurisdiction by default.

How can a court in another state modify orders after UCCJEA jurisdiction is attached?

The state making initial custody orders has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over custody. It will lose that exclusive jurisdiction only when (a) the state loses “significant connection” jurisdiction or (b) the child, the child’s parents, and any person acting as the child’s parents no longer live in that state. But it is for the state with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to make that call, and before another state can take jurisdiction, the judges presiding over the case in the initial state and in the potential new jurisdiction will have a conversation to determine whether the initial state will give up jurisdiction to the new state.

Additional Child Custody Resources

Why Do Custody Disagreements to Go to Trial?
How to Prepare for a Custody Hearing
How to Prepare for a Deposition in a Divorce or Custody Case