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The importance of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act was approved in 1968 and changed the way jurisdiction was afforded in custody cases. Prior to this date, any court in the United States could exercise jurisdiction in a child custody case if the child was in that state.

There were some problems with that, of course, with the potential for a parent to take a child to a different state and seek custody rights, even if they were not awarded in another state. Additionally, it meant that the parent with custody could decide where to go to get the best chance of having custody rulings made in their favor.

The problem with not having cohesiveness across state lines was that it created a situation where parents were incentivized to kidnap their own children and flee to different states. This was called the "seize and run" tactic, which had serious implications for many families.

What did the United States government do about "seize and run" parenting?

To help deal with these interstate problems, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act was suggested in 1968. This then made it legal only for new courts to recognize the rulings of a past court and to know that it had jurisdiction over the case. The UCCJA makes sure other state courts do not modify a custody order and instead enforce it.

How is jursdiction determined under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act?

Under the UCCJA, there are four ways to determine jurisdictional grounds. These include:

  • Home state grounds, which is given jurisdiction when a child has lived there for at least six months
  • Emergency grounds, granted when abuse or abandonment require immediate protection for the child
  • Vacuum grounds, which are assigned when no other jurisdictional basis applies
  • Significant connection grounds, which apply when the state has a significant amount of information about the child due to them having many connections within the state boundaries

The most important thing to know is that the home state of your child likely has jurisdiction over your case, but there are times when two or more states may have the potential of taking over, such as in the case of an emergency or significant ties. The UCCJA doesn't prevent multiple states from having jurisdiction, but the first court you work with typically retains jurisdiction to help maintain the sanctity of the child support order and the security of your case.

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