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How Custody Works for Interstate Disputes - The UCCJEA

Natalie Lamy

Over recent years, the United States has become highly mobile, individuals often moving multiple times over state lines. Likewise, when a family experiences divorce, it is common for spouses to move to differing states. This can become complicated, however, when children are involved. Understanding the basics of interstate child custody laws can protect you and your family in the event of a dispute.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

The UCCJEA was adopted and enacted by the Colorado State Legislature on July 1, 2000. It is a set of laws designed to determine jurisdiction and deter parents from wrongfully moving children across state lines while in a child custody dispute.

Under the UCCJEA, a custody dispute should be filed in the state that has “child-state” jurisdiction, which means the state where the child has resided for more than six months. However, the jurisdictional analysis does not stop there. Not only must you determine where the child’s “home state” is, but also in order to determine jurisdiction, the court will consider three other factors:

  1. With what state does the child have significant connections;
  2. Is there a more appropriate forum; and
  3. Is there no other state that could have jurisdiction?

Regarding the child’s home state, if that state chooses to exercise jurisdiction over the matter, then no other state has the option to do so. If that state chooses not to exercise jurisdiction over the matter, then the court will proceed to analyze the other factors to determine where to file.

Accordingly, the court will then need to determine if the child has “significant connections” to the state. Significant connections may be evidence of the child’s care, like medical doctors and daycare, school, and personal ties.

Next, the court will look to see if there is another, more appropriate jurisdiction that should hear the dispute, such as a state that has more familiarity with the facts and issues. Finally, the court will hear the case if there are no other alternatives. It is also important to note that, in case of an emergency to protect the child, a court will hear the dispute.

Alternatively, it is important to note that just because a court has jurisdiction over your divorce, does not mean that that same court has jurisdiction over your custody dispute or child support dispute. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act requires personal jurisdiction over the payor before a court can enter child support orders and the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act requires that one spouse lives in Colorado for 91 days. Thus, it is important to know what jurisdictional analysis is required in order to proceed with your case.

How to Protect Yourself and Family in Interstate Child Custody Disputes

To best protect yourself and your family in the event of an interstate child custody dispute, you should keep records of your child’s connections to your state and make sure your child custody and visitation orders are clearly written.

For more information on The UCCJEA and interstate child custody disputes, please reach out to The Harris Law Firm.


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