The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) can be a confusing document of law to navigate, especially when the legal language can be quite nuanced. Where should you file your custody case if you and your child live in different states? What if you move to a different state? The UCCJEA addresses all the legal concerns regarding custody issues across state (and international ) lines, and an experienced lawyer can better help you understand how the UCCJEA may apply to your situation.
Let Francie L. Novar, PLLC advocate for your parental interests across state boundaries. Contact our firm online for a free consultation to get started.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act was drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and is a uniform state law regarding jurisdiction in child custody cases. In particular, the UCCJEA specifies which court should decide a custody case, not necessarily how the court should decide the case.
The UCCJEA sets 4 grounds for jurisdiction – home state, significant connection, more appropriate forum, and no other state jurisdiction. The UCCJEA prioritizes home state jurisdiction, and a court may not exercise jurisdiction if a proceeding is pending elsewhere consistent with the UCCJEA. The law defines the grounds of jurisdiction as follows:
- Home state – home state jurisdiction exists in the child’s current home state or in a state that was the child’s home state within 6 months before the case began, where the “home state” is where the child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least 6 months immediately before the custody action was filed
- Significant connection – a state has significant connection jurisdiction if the child and at least one parent have a significant connection with the state, though there must be substantial evidence in that state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships
- More appropriate forum – this jurisdiction exists when both the home state and the significant connection jurisdiction have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the grounds that a court of another state is the more appropriate forum
- No other state jurisdiction – this jurisdiction exists when no court of any other state would have home state, significant connection, or more appropriate forum jurisdiction
Michigan Custody and the UCCJEA
The UCCJEA governs jurisdiction of courts to make, modify, or enforce child custody determinations. It applies in child custody cases where one parent lives in the state and another resides in a state or county outside of Michigan. The UCCJEA jurisdictional rules apply to all child custody determinations in the following proceedings: divorce, separate maintenance, separation, child custody, abuse and neglect, guardianship, paternity, termination of parental rights, and protection from domestic violence. Generally, the law provides that jurisdiction is held by a minor child’s home state (as defined above), which may or may not be Michigan.
Parents dealing with custody issues that involve different states will need to refer to the UCCJEA to make sense of the custody decision and possible outcomes. For instance, if you live in Michigan and your child lives in another state, or if you have moved to another state but your child still lives in Michigan, the UCCJEA dictates which state has jurisdiction over your custody case to make an initial child custody determination, which state has jurisdiction to modify a child custody determination, and which state has only enforcement powers. It is best to consult an experienced UCCJEA lawyer like Francie L. Novar who understands the UCCJEA and can provide valuable legal assistance in this process, especially when the legal boundaries can get hazy (literally).
Schedule a free consultation with Francie L. Novar, PLLC to learn more about how the UCCJEA may apply to your Ann Arbor case.