The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”)

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”)2018-11-11T20:55:20+00:00

Virginia, like most states, has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”). The UCCJEA is a uniform state law that determines which state’s courts have jurisdiction to make and modify a child custody determination. The Act requires that state courts enforce child-custody and visitation orders made by other states.  The UCCJEA assures that a single court will have jurisdiction over custody proceedings, even if the child has been abducted by a parent or guardian.

The main points of the UCCJEA are as follows:

  • Grants priority to home state jurisdiction in original custody cases.  Under the UCCJEA, “Home state” is defined as the “state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child-custody proceeding. In the case of a child less than six months of age, the term means the state in which the child lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned. A period of temporary absence of any of the mentioned persons is part of the period.
  • Preserves exclusive, continuing jurisdiction in the state that made the initial custody determination.
  • Authorizes courts to exercise emergency jurisdiction, in certain cases such as cases of domestic violence and child abuse or neglect.  Under this provision of the UCCJEA, a  state which does not otherwise have jurisdiction may enter a temporary emergency order, if the child is in danger and needs immediate protection.  If there is no previous child custody order in existence, the emergency court’s order will remain in effect until a determination is made in a court having “home state” jurisdiction over the child. If no determination is made, and the emergency court’s state becomes the home state of the child, the emergency order becomes a final determination of custody.
  • Directs courts to decline jurisdiction created by unjustifiable conduct , such as in the case of so-called “child snatching.”
  • Provides procedures for enforcement of interstate custody and visitation determination.
  • Creates registration process for interstate custody determination.
  • Authorizes issuance of warrants to protect at-risk children of being removed from the state.

For more information on this topic, please see our Family Law Frequently Asked Questions page.   To schedule a consultation concerning a child custody or visitation matter, and to obtain specific advice on the laws applicable to your situation, please contact us.