What is the UCCJEA in California?2019-10-31T16:03:57+00:00

If you are facing a child custody dispute, it is never easy. Your kids are adapting to a new normal and you and your co-parent are facing tough decisions about what is best for your kids. When co-parents are in two different states, the situation can become even more complicated, particularly when you need to change or enforce a custody ruling. In California, the legislature enacted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) to guide the jurisdictional twists that arise with these disputes.

The UCCJEA generally governs:

  • When a California court can make an initial decision on custody and visitation
  • When the court can alter the custody determination of another state or country
  • Registration of custody orders from other states and countries
  • When California courts may enforce the child custody and visitation decisions of other states and countries
  • Which state should have the power to make a child custody and visitation decision if more than one state may have that authority
  • When California courts can issue an emergency order of custody or visitation even if California courts may not have jurisdiction to issue an initial determination of custody

Originally, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws drafted the UCCJEA as a model to help states adopt consistent laws on the handling of child custody and visitation disputes across state lines. The UCCJEA also helped to ensure that state custody laws became consistent with federal laws like the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act. Now, 49 states and the District of Columbia, except for Massachusetts, have adopted the UCCJEA.

While the UCCJEA helps determine which court should hear a custody case, it does not decide how the court should decide the case. The legislation sets forth four different jurisdictional bases for courts:

  • 1. Home State: California prioritizes home state jurisdiction, which is a child’s home or the state where the child lived six months before the case began.
  • 2. Significant Connection: A state has “significant connection” jurisdiction if the child and at least one parent have a significant connection with the state, with evidence related to the child’s personal relationships, care, training, or protection in that state.
  • 3. More Appropriate Forum: This jurisdiction exists if both the home state and a state with a significant connection have declined jurisdiction because there is a state that is a more appropriate forum.
  • 4. No Other State Jurisdiction: This jurisdiction exists if there is no home state, significant connection state, or more appropriate forum.

If you are facing a child custody dispute and are concerned that California’s UCCJEA may apply, you should contact your attorney as soon as possible. Jurisdictional issues related to custody orders require experienced family law attorneys.

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