Interstate Child Custody Disputes (UCCJEA)
Denver Child Custody Lawyer
In today’s society, it is extremely common for divorced or separated parents to live in different states, which can cause jurisdictional questions and difficulties in the event of a child custody dispute. That is why the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) was passed in 1969 and adopted by all 50 states in 1981.
The UCCJA attempted to resolve custody conflicts by ensuring that only one state had jurisdiction to create or modify a given child custody order. The UCCJA was then amended in 1997 following conflicts with the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) and was renamed the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The only state that has not adopted the UCCJEA is Massachusetts; Colorado and the other 48 states have.
The Basics of the UCCJEA
The purposes of the UCCJEA are as follows:
- To avoid jurisdictional conflict between States in matters of child custody;
- To promote cooperation between the States and to render custody orders by that State which can best decide the case in the interest of the child;
- To discourage the use of the interstate system for continuing controversies over child custody,
- To deter abductions of children;
- To avoid re-litigation of custody decisions of one State in another State; and
- To facilitate the enforcement of custody decrees of other States.
The UCCJEA applies to virtually all custody cases, save for ones involving adoptions and emergency medical treatment for a child. The UCCJEA also applies internationally unless a foreign country’s laws violate a fundamental principle of human rights.
Jurisdictional issues related to custody disputes are prioritized on the Court’s calendar. Decisions rendered by a Colorado court under the UCCJEA are binding on everyone subject to the Court’s jurisdiction, as long as formal notice is given in the manner required under Colorado law or under the law of the State or country of the person notified. An order issued under the Act and is “conclusive as to all decided issues of law and fact” unless the order is subsequently modified.
Communication and Cooperation Between Courts
The UCCJEA is unique in that it expressly authorizes courts to communicate directly with each other in order to help resolve jurisdictional and evidentiary disputes, with or without notice to the parties. Courts are also authorized to hold evidentiary hearings, or to take action to preserve evidence on behalf of other courts, in order to help resolve any jurisdiction issues.
Jurisdictions under the UCCJEA
Home State Analysis - Under the UCCJEA, the “home state” of the child has “original jurisdiction” to make the initial child custody determination. The home state is the State or country where the child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least 182 days (6 months) immediately before the child-custody case was filed. So, if the child was removed from a State or country less than six months ago, that State or country will still retain exclusive jurisdiction to hear the case as long as one party still lives in that jurisdiction. If the child is less than six months of age, the “home state” is the state in which the child lived from birth.
More Appropriate Forum – The “home state” analysis is strongly preferred as a method to resolve interstate child custody jurisdictional issues. However, a Colorado district court may also assume jurisdiction to enter the initial child custody determination if, under another State’s or a foreign country’s laws:
- No other jurisdiction is the child’s “home state,” or
- The court in the child’s home state declines to exercise jurisdiction because it finds that Colorado is a more appropriate forum.
For these alternatives to apply, the foreign jurisdiction must have laws substantially similar to the UCCJEA. Also, the parents must have a significant connection to Colorado (the “more appropriate forum”) other than mere physical presence, and substantial evidence must be available in Colorado concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships.
No Other Court Has Jurisdiction – As a fallback measure, a Colorado court may exercise jurisdiction to enter an initial child custody decision if no other state has jurisdiction according to its laws, which much be in substantial conformity to the above “home state” and “more appropriate forum” rules.
Emergency Jurisdiction – A Colorado District Court also has ongoing jurisdiction to enter temporary emergency orders necessary to protect a child.
Speak with an Interstate Child Custody Attorney in Denver
Our team at Denver Family Lawyers are experienced in Colorado interstate child custody disputes and UCCJEA cases. Call us now to discuss your legal options and rights concerning child custody cases that cross state lines or country borders.
Call (303) 225-3343 Today for a Free Case Evaluation!