Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

Dollarphotoclub_60136892There are independent groups that lobby and advocate for harmonization of the law across the country.  The American Law Institute, which publishes and updates the Restatements of the Law is one example.  The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws is another.  Some of the family law enactments that it helped to draft and institute are the Adoption Act and the Child Abduction Prevention Act.  

One of the most widely enacted acts produced is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).  It has been implemented in every state, except Massachusetts.  In addition, the District of Columbia, Guam and United States Virgin Islands also enacted the UCCJEA.  The animating philosophy is to “limit the state with jurisdiction over child custody to one, which avoids competing orders” and to “provide enforcement provisions for child custody orders.”  

Only One Court Allowed To Adjudicate

South Carolina’s particular version of the UCCJEA is at S.C. Code Ann. §§ 20-7-782 et seq.  Only one “state” can validly create or modify child custody orders, otherwise known as the child’s “home state”.  The child must have lived in the home state at least six months previous to any court asserting jurisdiction over custody matters. In addition, notice and an opportunity to be heard must be provided to the affected parent(s) and custodial parties.

Five Basis To Act

Four specifically delineated grounds enable a court to create or modify a child custody order.  The first is “home state” which is, as noted above, the state where the child resides and has resided for the past six months; here the court must be in the child’s home state.  There are some exceptions to this, such as when one parent leaves the state and the other parent stays behind.  

The second requires the child to have a “significant connection” to the state in which the court operates.

The third grounds for jurisdiction is commonly called “vacuum jurisdiction,” which is when no other state meets the previously noted prerequisites, or another state declined jurisdiction on grounds that this state is the more appropriate jurisdiction. Here, this court would have jurisdiction of the case.   

Finally, there is basis for the court to create or modify a child custody order in an emergency situation. Consider, for example, a parent traveling with his/her child from New York to Florida and who has a psychotic episode in South Carolina. This may require a South Carolina court to adopt jurisdiction in order to modify a custody arrangement, depending on the outcome and the severity of the case.

Let Us Help You Today

If you need assistance modifying or creating a child custody agreement, contact an attorney today. Robert A. Clark is a compassionate, understanding family law attorney with experience dealing with the various issues involved in such a case.  If you or someone you know is dealing with such a situation or would like to speak to a lawyer about other aspects of family law, Robert A. Clark can be reached directly at (864) 335-9730. We look forward to working with you in Greenville.

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