In custody disputes, sometimes parents argue over where jurisdiction lies. One parent may want to relocate to be closer to a support structure, or for employment purposes. The other person may want to stay in the state they are currently residing in. Parents must make these decisions together, or they may run afoul of the UCCJEA.
The UCCJEA sets standards by which the states must abide by. One consistent theme is that the children must be living within that state’s boundaries or as a resident of that state for the state to have jurisdiction over then.
The UCCJEA, or the Uniform Child Custody Judicial Enforcement Act, governs which state will make the controlling decisions on the custody for you and your family. Jurisdiction is basically whether a court has the power to exercise control over a person or issue orders and make decisions with regard to that person. The UCCJEA sets standards by which the states must abide. It is important to understand the UCCJEA when parents have relocated or are attempting to relocate.
The UCCJEA vests exclusive and continuing jurisdiction for child custody purposes to the state which is deemed to be the “home state” of a child. The “home state” is the state in which the child has lived with a parent for at least six consecutive months (less, if the child is under six months of age) prior to the commencement of an initial custody action.
If a child has not lived in a state for six consecutive months, the Courts would look to the UCCJEA to guide them in determining which court has the authority to make those decisions. Most states have adopted some version of the UCCJEA. In Nevada, the UCCJEA is contained in NRS 125A. If there is no home state, the Court will look to see if another state has a more convenient forum.
The Court looks to the child’s significant connections in the state, such as whether the child, and his or her parents, or the child and at least one parent (or someone acting as a parent) have a significant connection with the state other than a “mere physical presence”. The Court will also look to whether there is substantial evidence about the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships within the state. This includes such things as schooling, medical or dental, relatives, and significant family connections.
Last, it determines whether all other Courts that may exercise jurisdiction over the child have declined to exercise that jurisdiction on the grounds that there is a more appropriate forum. Physical location of a child is not enough on its own to vest jurisdiction in a specific state. Once jurisdiction is determined, however, that is where jurisdiction will stay unless there are no longer significant connections, or a court has determined that the parties no longer reside within the state.
Finally, if a parent has removed a child to state wrongfully, the Courts may determine that custody is better given to the other parent. Be sure to speak with a family law attorney to help guide you in your decision-making with regard to relocating your children to another state.
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