The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) is followed by the State of New York and is codified in New York’s Domestic Relations Law Sections 75-78. Its applicability is with child custody and visitation disputes that cross state lines. The family law community regularly uses the statutory acronym UCCJEA – hopefully this post will dissect some of the confusion on what the statute does.
Except in a temporary emergency situation (DRL Section 76-c), an initial child custody determination is made by the child’s “home state”, which is defined in DRL Section 76 as the state in which the child has lived for six month before the commencement of the action. The home state has “exclusive[and] continuing jurisdiction” over the action until the court determines that the child and at least one parent no longer has a “significant connection” with the state and that “substantial evidence is no longer available in this state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships” or where a court determines that the child and the child’s parent no longer reside in the home state. (See DRL Section 76-a). Thus, a court can lose jurisdiction over custody based on loss of a substantial connection with the state or neither party nor the child continuing to reside in that state.
The best way to understand the UCCJEA is with a case illustration. Take the case of a couple and child who have lived in New York for the past 5 years. Following the statute above, New York is the home state of the child and can make an initial custody determination. If however, the mother decides to take the child and move to Connecticut and the father remains in New York, the mother cannot initiate a custody action in Connecticut the next week because that is not the child’s “home state”, New York is. Therefore, New York has jurisdiction to make a custody determination.
As mentioned in the statute quoted above, a court can lose jurisdiction over custody based on loss of a substantial connection with the state or neither party nor the child continuing to reside in that state. Using the example above, if the father moves out of New York, to Georgia for instance, then the New York court must decline continuing jurisdiction over custody.
"This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. It is recommended that you speak to an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction before relying on the information in this blog."