Understanding the UCCJEA

Divorce proceedings in San Francisco can easily become emotionally charged, prompting those going through the process to want to distance themselves from each other as much as possible. Your ex-spouse wanting to move away may not be unexpected, yet also hoping to take the kids with them can complicate matters. Parental relocation immediately brings up the issue of jurisdiction. Many that come to us here at the [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″] are concerned that their exes’ decisions to relocate are motivated by which states they believe offer them the best shot at a favorable custody ruling. This prompts the question of how concerned should you be if your ex-spouse seems to to be shopping for a preferred custodial jurisdiction? 

You will be glad to hear that states typically no longer compete over custodial jurisdiction. A federal law exists known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act that is meant to deter parents from moving away when they believe another state might favor their claims to custody. According to the website for the Judicial Branch of California, all 50 states recognize the authority of the UCCJEA. 

This law states that the “home state” is a custody matter (and thus the one with jurisdiction over a case) is whichever can meet one of the following criteria: 

  • The child has resided there for the previous six months (or is only not there currently because one parent took them to another state)
  • The child has significant familial connections in the state
  • The child is in the state and sending them to another would present a significant risk of harm

One state can meet the aforementioned criteria and yet decline jurisdiction if it believes a child’s best interests would be better served elsewhere. More information on custodial proceedings can be found here on our site.