Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

Too often, a parent who did not like a child custody or visitation ruling in one state would take the child to another state. In the new state, the parent could seek a new custody order or simply avoid the reach of the other parent’s attempts to have the custody order of the first state enforced in the second state. To combat these problems the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act was drafted. In 1997, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws drafted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) to address issues that arose from the application of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act. The UCCJEA provides interstate enforcement procedures for child custody and visitation orders.

The UCCJEA provides a remedy for interstate custody and visitation orders, including interstate registration of such orders. It also provides speedy procedures for enforcement of a foreign state’s orders. There is a normal remedy, similar to a habeas corpus proceeding, and an extraordinary remedy, similar to a warrant for the child’s physical custody. The normal remedy requires notice and a hearing on a quick timetable. The extraordinary remedy is used when the child is in immediate jeopardy of serious physical harm or of removal from the state. If a warrant for the child’s physical custody is issued upon the filing of a special application, there is no notice or hearing until law enforcement officers secure the child.

Under the UCCJEA, the initial jurisdiction over child custody matters is the court of the child’s home state. The exclusive continuing jurisdiction is in the court that has made the child custody determination. In a proceeding under the Act, the right to notice and the opportunity to be heard must be given to all persons who would have been entitled to notice in the custody proceeding between the residents of the foreign forum state, any parent whose parental rights have not been terminated, and a person having physical custody of the child. Courts can require parties to appear personally. Intervention into proceedings under the UCCJEA is governed by the laws that applied to the child custody proceedings between the residents of the forum state.

Under the UCCJEA, prevailing parties are entitled to reasonable fees, costs, and expenses. The state may not be assessed those charges unless some other law so provides. The child-custody order under the Act has res judicata effect with respect to all persons who were properly served notice and had an opportunity to be heard. Foreign countries are treated like a state of the United States for purposes of applying the UCCJEA. However, the Act does not apply to an Indian child subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act.