UCCJEA – What is It and How Does It Work?

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act or UCCJEA deals with the enforcement of modification of Custody/Legal Decision Making and/or Parenting Time from different states and different countries. The uniform act was drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform Stat Laws back in 1997 in their mission to create laws that will create uniformity across all fifty states. As of today, forty-nine states have adopted UCCJEA into their statutes, including Arizona. Because Arizona has adopted the UCCJEA along with the majority of the country, it provides for a more uniform approach in dealing with enforcing and modifying child custody and parenting time orders.

Although the state or country that originally issued the custody/parenting time order has continuing jurisdiction over any enforcement or modification of these orders, that can change if the parents, and more particularly the children, have moved out of the original issuing state. If the children have moved to a new state, jurisdiction over enforcement and modification is proper in the “home state” of the children – “home state” is defined as the state where the children have most recently resided for a continuous period of six (6) months or more. For example, if one parent and the children moved from Arizona to Florida several years ago following the divorce (assuming the parties were in agreement or the Court approved of this relocation) and have remained there ever since, then Florida is now the “home state” of the children and should be the proper jurisdiction to hear any modification or enforcement actions involving the parties’ custody or parenting time orders. There are certain procedural requirements that need to be fulfilled to complete this change in jurisdiction from one state to another which can be tricky and may require the aid of an attorney experienced in UCCJEA matters.

As an example, if you are seeking to enforce or modify an out-of-state or international child custody or parenting time order, you will need to follow more detailed and specialized procedures beyond the normal procedures for domestication for foreign judgments generally to ensure that you are in compliance with the requirements of the UCCJEA and A.R.S. § 25-1055 et al. Failure to do so or just attempting to domesticate such custody or parenting time orders as a “run of the mill” judgment may result in dismissal of your matter and rejection of any enforcement or modification proceedings which could prove devastating to you and your children.

If you find yourself or a loved one facing an issue regarding enforcement or modification of out of state or international custody and/or parenting time orders and need assistance, please call OWENS & PERKINS at480.994.8824 to schedule your free 30 minute consultation.