Hello, and welcome to the Blog! I am an experienced divorce attorney and family law attorney serving clients in Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, New Port Richey, Clearwater, Safety Harbor, Oldsmar and the Tampa Bay area! I practice in most areas of family law, including, buy not limited to divorce, high asset divorce, custody, alimony, child support, paternity actions, modification proceedings, domestic violence, step parent adoption and grand parent adoption. Today and the next several blog posts we will talk about the UCCJEA and how it relates to what state your custody action is proper.
WHAT IS THE UCCJEA?
Published in 1997, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) sets out to bring uniformity among child custody disputes. Prior to 1997 interstate child custody disputes were governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA). After it became apparent that the UCCJA created more problems that it resolved, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws drafted the UCCJEA to close the gaps in the UCCJA and help prevent the loopholes available to parents who engaged in unlawful conduct in child custody disputes. So far, 48 states, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands have enacted the UCCJEA, and the remaining 2 states are currently considering enacting the UCCJEA.
Home State Jurisdiction pursuant to Sec. 61.514
The home state, as defined in Sec. 61.503, is the state in which a child lived with a parent or person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding. In the case of an infant under six months old, the home state is the state in which the child lived from birth with a parent or person acting as a parent.
Sometimes, however, the child has no home state, because the child is less that 6 months old, or a situation may arise where a child has not spent at least six months in any one state. In those situations, a court must evaluate the facts of the case to determine whether it can exercise jurisdiction based on the child not having a home state. The legal residence or domicile of the child is irrelevant in determining physical presence in a state for at least six months. The only factor to be considered is where the child actually, PHYSICALLY lived. In cases involving an initial or modification child custody proceeding, however, the court must determine the residency of the parents to the issuing state by factoring in the intent to reside in the issuing state. Additionally, temporary absences are included in the six month home state requirement, and will be addressed in more detail at a later time.
Commencement and Required Information
A case is commenced under the UCCJEA upon the filing of the first pleading. In order for the court to recognize an enforcement petition from an out of state order, the petitioner must comply with the registration procedures of Fla. Stat. § 61.528. The UCCJEA imposes very specific pleading requirements. A petitioner must file a document requesting registration of the out-of-state order with the circuit court, along with two copies of the child-custody determination to be registered and a statement that the order has not been modified. Additionally, the name and address of both the petitioner and the respondent must be filed with the circuit court.
The petitioner, under oath, is required to provide information regarding the children’s present address, the places the children have lived for the last five years, the names and present addresses of the persons with whom the children have resided with during that period, and whether or not there are other custody proceedings that exist.
Once the court has the proper documents, the clerk is to file the petition as a foreign judgment and serve notice on the parties listed in the pleadings along with a notice that the parties can contest the registration under the criteria outlined in Fla. Stat. § 61.528(4). However, if a respondent fails to challenge the registration order, it becomes enforceable after twenty days.
Simultaneous Child Custody Proceedings
If a party of another state has already commenced a child custody proceeding in substantial conformity with the UCCJEA, the Florida court must stay their proceedings and communicate with the other court. This communication is mandatory under Fla. Stat. § 61.519 in order to conduct a UCCJEA hearing to determine if the other state wishes to relinquish jurisdiction under a theory of inconvenient forum. If the other state does not relinquish jurisdiction, then a Florida court must dismiss the child custody proceeding currently pending in their court.
Please come back to have further discussion! If you have UCCJEA questions, schedule a free consultation!