What is the UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act) in Riverside
Application of the UCCJEA to Murrieta and Temecula Child Custody Cases
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The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a set of laws that govern child custody cases when more than one jurisdiction (i.e. state or country) may have the power to make child custody and visitation orders for a particular child. The UCCJEA was initially penned as a uniform set of laws that all states would adopt, and most states have done so in some form or another.
Priority of UCCJEA Issues
Family Code 3407 states that when a question of jurisdiction arising under the UCCJEA is raised by a party during a child custody proceeding, the court is required to handle the case “expeditiously” and provide a prompt hearing date to resolve the issue. This makes sense because it must be determined immediately which court has the proper jurisdiction to make temporary and/or permanent child custody orders.
Personal Jurisdiction over a Parent
Family Code 3409 makes clear that California does not gain “personal” jurisdiction over a parent simply because that parent participates in a child custody proceeding under the UCCJEA within California. This is an important concept because personal jurisdiction is required before a Riverside County court can enter a child support order against a parent.
Communications between Courts
The courts of different jurisdictions are permitted to communicate with each other concerning what state (or country) has the authority to make custody orders. Simply put, this means that the judges of the two states talk to each other. This situation arises when one parent files a case (like a divorce, paternity or domestic violence case) in one state and the other parent files in another state. Thus, there are two, simultaneous cases occurring regarding the same parents and child in multiple jurisdictions.
Family Code 3410 states,
(a) A court of this state may communicate with a court in
another state concerning a proceeding arising under this part.
(b) The court may allow the parties to participate in the
communication. If the parties are not able to participate in the
communication, they must be given the opportunity to present facts
and legal arguments before a decision on jurisdiction is made.
(c) Communication between courts on schedules, calendars, court
records, and similar matters may occur without informing the parties.
A record need not be made of the communication.
(d) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (c), a record must
be made of a communication under this section. The parties must be
informed promptly of the communication and granted access to the
(e) For the purposes of this section, “record” means information
that is inscribed on a tangible medium or that is stored in an
electronic or other medium and is retrievable in perceivable form.
The Riverside County judge can request that the other state hold an evidentiary hearing, order a person in that state to produce evidence, order an evaluation or provide the court transcript of any proceedings in the out of state case.
Testimony from Out of State Witnesses
In an interesting code section, the family courts in Riverside County are permitted to allow witnesses that live out of state to testify in a UCCJEA proceeding by phone, audiovisual transmission, or “another” electronic transmission. (See Family Code 3411(b)).
When California has Jurisdiction
Under the “home state” clause of Family Code 3421, California courts have the power to make custody orders when a child has lived in California for 6 months or more or if the child was born in California if he or she is less than 6 months old (generally speaking). If no other state has jurisdiction over the matter, California may assert jurisdiction. Notably, the child at issue does not have to be physically present in the state for California to take jurisdiction of the case.
Under many circumstances, California courts may even have the authority under the UCCJEA provisions to modify the custody orders entered by another judge in another state.
California is also permitted to decline jurisdiction in some circumstances, which includes unjustifiable conduct by a parent or where the case would be extremely inconvenient to occur in this state.
Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction under the UCCJEA
California courts may be entitled to make emergency, temporary orders even though California is not the “home state” of the child. Family Code 3424 states,
(a) A court of this state has temporary emergency
jurisdiction if the child is present in this state and the child has
been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the
child because the child, or a sibling or parent of the child, is
subjected to, or threatened with, mistreatment or abuse.
(b) If there is no previous child custody determination that is
entitled to be enforced under this part and a child custody
proceeding has not been commenced in a court of a state having
jurisdiction under Sections 3421 to 3423, inclusive, a child custody
determination made under this section remains in effect until an
order is obtained from a court of a state having jurisdiction under
Sections 3421 to 3423, inclusive. If a child custody proceeding has
not been or is not commenced in a court of a state having
jurisdiction under Sections 3421 to 3423, inclusive, a child custody
determination made under this section becomes a final determination,
if it so provides and this state becomes the home state of the child.
(c) If there is a previous child custody determination that is
entitled to be enforced under this part, or a child custody
proceeding has been commenced in a court of a state having
jurisdiction under Sections 3421 to 3423, inclusive, any order issued
by a court of this state under this section must specify in the
order a period that the court considers adequate to allow the person
seeking an order to obtain an order from the state having
jurisdiction under Sections 3421 to 3423, inclusive. The order issued
in this state remains in effect until an order is obtained from the
other state within the period specified or the period expires.
(d) A court of this state that has been asked to make a child
custody determination under this section, upon being informed that a
child custody proceeding has been commenced in, or a child custody
determination has been made by, a court of a state having
jurisdiction under Sections 3421 to 3423, inclusive, shall
immediately communicate with the other court. A court of this state
which is exercising jurisdiction pursuant to Sections 3421 to 3423,
inclusive, upon being informed that a child custody proceeding has
been commenced in, or a child custody determination has been made by,
a court of another state under a statute similar to this section
shall immediately communicate with the court of that state to resolve
the emergency, protect the safety of the parties and the child, and
determine a period for the duration of the temporary order.
(e) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting subdivision
(a) that the grounds on which a court may exercise temporary
emergency jurisdiction be expanded. It is further the intent of the
Legislature that these grounds include those that existed under
Section 3403 of the Family Code as that section read on December 31,
1999, particularly including cases involving domestic violence.
For more information about child custody and the UCCJEA, contact us today.