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What Is the UCCJEA?

Posted By Edwin Castellanos || 19-Aug-2013

What is the UCCJEA? How will a family law court determine California has authority (“jurisdiction”) over your Los Angeles child custody dispute? The legal framework for a family law court to determine if it has authority to hear a child custody dispute involving parties in interested states or foreign countries can be found in the California’s Uniform Child Custody and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”). You can find statutory reference to the UCCJEA in California Family Code Section 3405. In addition, you and your child custody lawyer should also be familiar with federal law, which also sets out important jurisdictional requirements in a child custody and child visitation dispute in Los Angeles and commonly referred to as the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (“FPKPA”).

Defining the UCCJEA in California

In California, the UCCJEA is the exclusive method by which a court determines if it has “subject matter jurisdiction” in custody cases involving other jurisdictions. The UCCJEA was adopted by the California Legislature in 1999 and it’s use among family law courts in California began in 2000.

What’s important for you to remember about the UCCJEA is that when a jurisdictional issue arises in a child custody dispute such as where a child’s residence or domicile is at the time of a custody proceeding, the provisions of both the UCCJEA and the FPKPA are used in the first instance by the family law court to make a determination under California law. As a result, the UCCJEA is considered the exclusive method for determining the family law court’s authority to hear and issue orders in a child custody dispute when an issue arises regarding child custody jurisdiction between states or other counties. The UCCJEA will also control in any juvenile dependency proceeding involving custody disputes between states.

Home State Jurisdiction Durinig Initial child Custody Determinations

As stated above, the UCCJEA provides a comprehensive legal framework for establishing and enforcing custody and visitation orders. The UCCJEA will help a Los Angeles family court identify the state that has exclusive jurisdiction to make a first or initial custody/visitation order. The purpose is to ensure one state will have exclusive and continuing jurisdiction to make child custody and child visitation orders once an initial custody order is made. The UCCJEA ensures one court is going to have continuing child custody jurisdiction to prevent conflict between jurisdictions and to avoid inconsistent results.

The UCCJEA give absolute priority jurisdiction to what is commonly referred to as a child’s “home state” in all initial custody adjudications. California Family Code §3402(g) defines a child’s home state as follows:

“Home state” means the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding. A period of temporary absence of any of the mentioned persons is part of the period.

Family Code §4901(d) also defines home state as follows:

“Home state” means the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as parent for at least six consecutive months immediately preceding the time of filing of a petition or comparable pleading for support…A period of temporary absence of any of them is counted as part of the six-month or other period.

Pursuant to Penal Code §277(c), a custody proceeding is defined as “a proceeding in which a custody determination is an issue, including, but not limited to, an action for dissolution or separation, dependency, guardianship, termination of parental rights, adoption, paternity, except actions under Section 11350 or 11350.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, or protection from domestic violence proceedings, including an emergency protective order pursuant to Part 3 (commencing with Section 6240) of Division 10 of the Family Code.

FREE Initial Consult With a Los Angeles Child Custody Lawyer

If you are involved in a child custody dispute involving another state or country, it is essential to consult with a law Los Angeles child custody lawyer. You must be aware of the UCCJEA and its provisions related to “home state” jurisdiction, as application of the UCCJEA may play an important role determining your divorce strategy or can impact future enforcement issues related to a child’s relocation in a negotiated custody agreement.

At Castellanos & Associates, APLC, a Los Angeles divorce lawyer from our office will provide a FREE initial consultation. Contact Castellanos & Associates, APLC today at (323) 655-2105. We look forward to helping you with any divorce, child custody, child support, modifications, getting temporary orders or any other family law concern.