The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

This Bulletin describes the Uniform ChildCustody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act(the UCCJEA),1) the most recent in a series
of laws designed to deter interstate parental kidnapping and promote uniform jurisdiction and enforcement provisions in interstate child-custody and visitation cases. The Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is publishing this Bulletin to provide current information about the UCCJEA to legislators in States considering its adoption and to parents and practitioners in States that have already adopted the law. The Bulletin is not an official OJJDP endorsement
of the Act. The UCCJEA is a uniform State law that was approved in 1997 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) to replace its 1968 Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act
(the UCCJA). 2) NCCUSL drafts and proposes laws in areas where it believes uniformity is important, but the laws become
effective only upon adoption by State legislatures. As of July 2001, 26 jurisdictions had adopted the UCCJEA,3) and it had been introduced in 2000–01 in the legislatures of 10 others.4) The UCCJEA governs State courts’ jurisdiction to make and modify “child-custody determinations,” a term that expressly includes custody and visitation orders.5) The Act requires State courts to enforce valid child-custody and visitation determinations made by sister State courts. It also establishes innovative interstate enforcement procedures. The UCCJEA is intended as an improvement over the UCCJA. It clarifies UCCJA provisions that have received conflicting interpretations in courts across the country, codifies practices that have effectively reduced interstate conflict, conforms jurisdictional standards to those of the
Federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (the PKPA)6 to ensure interstate enforceability of orders, and adds protections for victims of domestic violence who move out of State for safe haven.
The UCCJEA, however, is not a substantive custody statute. It does not dictate standards for making or modifying child custody and visitation decisions; instead, it determines which States’ courts have
and should exercise jurisdiction to do so. A court must have jurisdiction (i.e., the power and authority to hear and decide a matter) before it can proceed to consider the merits of a case. The UCCJEA does not
apply to child support cases.

For more on UCCJA, please click here

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