UCCJEA Uniform Child Custody Jurisdictional Enforcement Act
The UCCJEA is a Federal Statute that applies when parties are litigating child custody, time sharing &/or support issues in multiple jurisdictions.
This happens relatively often when one or both parents of a child(ren) decide to relocate to another state. However, only one state can have jurisdiction over a child(ren) at any given time. Which State takes jurisdiction? If it were left to the States to argue it out, these matters could take months and thousands of dollars in legal costs to secure a determination. It would in some sense become a matter of who filed their case first and who obtained service of process first. To avoid these complications and simplify the determination of jurisdiction in these instances to serve the best interest of children and judicial efficiency, the Federal Government established guidelines that determine which state will have the jurisdiction over the matters relating to the child(ren)) when there are competing jurisdictions.
The UCCJEA defers jurisdiction to the State where the child has lived for 6 continuous months at the commencement of the case. Commencement of the case, for UCCJEA purposes, is defined as the time of the filing of the first Petition. If the child is less than 6 months old, then jurisdiction defers to the State where the child was born, unless neither parent resides in the child's State of birth, at which time jurisdiction will defer to the State where the child resides at the time of the commencement of the action. The date of service of process is not relevant. It is the date of the filing of the action that commences the proceedings and triggers the UCCJEA.
A determination of initial jurisdiction is not necessarily the final word, however. If the parent whose State did not have commencing jurisdiction can meet certain statutory criteria, they may be able to litigate Venue based on the Inconvenient Forum paragraph in the UCCJEA. With proper grounds, the State with jurisdiction at the commencement of the action may surrender its jurisdiction to the other State if the judge in the second state is willing to accept jurisdiction.
It is important to keep in mind that absent an existing order from the Court, either parent may take the child(ren) and move anywhere they want. If you want to make sure the other parent doesn't just pack and move out of the state with the child(ren), then it is imperative that the proper Petition be filed with the local Court as soon as practicable. Once an order from the Court issues in Florida, any parent moving more than 45 miles from the place of residence at the time of the Final Judgment from the Court will need leave of Court to move the children and/or a new parenting plan will need to be established to determine the visitation arrangement that is in the nest interest of the child(ren) given the long distance between the parents.
In the case of unmarried parents, the Father should file a Petition for Paternity as soon as is practicable to legitimize his paternity through the Courts, whether or not the parents are together or broken up. This is because the rights of an unwed Father are not the same as those of a father whose child is born within the bounds of marriage. This is not only cautious, but will help prevent a situation where the Mother could relocate with child(ren) to another state without telling the Father, setting up the grounds for costly UCCJEA litigation, which altogether could have been avoidable through timely litigation to establish Paternity through the Courts.
If you are going through a dissolution, separation or other Family issue, with or without child(ren), CALL US for your FREE CONSULTATION. 561-601-2244.