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Connecticut Child Custody Orders and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

December 28, 2023 General

             Co-parenting is never easy. Different opinions of the best interests of your children, ever-changing schedules and never-ending obligations make co-parenting difficult in the best circumstances. The fact is that your co-parent wants to keep the children around them as much as you do and on the terms that work best for them. Imagine that you or your co-parent needs to move across state lines for family, work, or some other important reason. Both of you have a right to spend time with your children and interstate custody laws add another layer of complexity to custody and visitation.

            There isn’t a federal law that handles custody orders. Those orders are the sole province of the state that has jurisdiction over the child. When one parent moves outside of that jurisdiction and wants to modify the custody orders, where is the proper jurisdiction to make this change?

            The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws drafted the UCCJEA to create uniformity in determining which court in which state is the appropriate one to make decisions regarding child custody and visitation. The purpose of the Act is to simplify custody issues across borders. The states that have signed the UCCJEA agree to enforce parenting agreements and orders from other states. (49 states have signed the Act. Massachusetts remains the only state not to sign.)

            The UCCJEA bases jurisdiction on a child’s close affiliation with a State. It established 4 grounds for jurisdiction:

  1. Home state (reserved for the State in which the child has lived for at least 6 months preceding the commencement of the action).
  2. Significant connection (exists when a State has substantial evidence about a child as a result of the child’s significant connections to the State).
  3. Emergency (governs situations such as abandonment or abuse that require immediate protective action)
  4. Vacuum (applies when no other jurisdictional basis exists).

             The home state has jurisdiction over custodial arrangements. If a child moved from Connecticut to Florida, Connecticut has jurisdiction until the child has lived in Florida for 6 consecutive months. If there are any questions about where the home state is, the court will determine where jurisdiction is proper based on significant contacts, meaning ties to different jurisdictions, such as where the child’s family, friends, and school attendance is located. All of this is important because the UCCJEA provides other States the power to enforce orders that are already in place.

             Custodial disputes are never easy and jurisdictional questions only complicate the issues. The Family Department at Brown Paindiris & Scott LLP has the experience and knowledge to help make your interstate custody issues manageable.