What is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act?

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (ie., “UCCJEA”) is a series of statutes in Arizona that determines whether an Arizona judge may either issue child custody orders or modify child custody orders issued in another state.  The purpose of the UCCJEA is to protect against the risk of more than one state issuing conflicting child custody orders.  As you can imagine, conflicting child custody orders would pose significant problems for parents and their children.

For Arizona to issue or modify a child custody order, Arizona is first required to determine if it is the “home state” of the child under the rules of the UCCJEA.What is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act The Arizona Court of Appeals in the case of Welch-Doden v. Roberts provides a very detailed examination of the determination of home state jurisdiction in Arizona.

You may also want to read the Arizona Court of Appeals decision in the Melgar v. Campo case that discusses an Arizona judge’s ability to issue emergency child custody orders modifying another state’s child custody order and the limit to the judge’s authority in such emergency situations.

A more unique situation present itself when a child was born overseas and, therefore, has not resided in any state in the United States.  The problem then exists that no state within the United States has “home state” jurisdiction because the child has not lived in any state in the United State for any period of time, much less for a period of six months.  The Arizona Court of Appeals resolved this issue in the Arizona Department of Economic Security (ADES) vs. Grant case.

The court of appeals ruled that Arizona may accept “home state” jurisdiction if no other state would have jurisdiction because the child has not resided in the United States or any particular state for six months and, therefore, no other state has a claim to “home state” jurisdiction under the UCCJEA.
What is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
Arizona, as well as every other state in the United States, has adopted the UCCJEA.  Although each state made some modifications to their versions of the UCCJEA, every state passed a version of the UCCJEA that is consistent with those laws passed into law in other states.

However, even when a child moves to another state and remains in that state with the child for more than six months, the new state does not necessarily obtain jurisdiction to modify child custody or parenting time if the state that initially issued the child custody orders has not first declined to continue exercising its exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over those child custody orders.  You should read our summary of the Arizona Court of Appeals decision in the Mangan v. Mangan case regarding that specific situation.

There are many rules and exceptions in the UCCJEA, so it is imperative you speak to an experienced child custody attorney to advise you on whether an Arizona judge has the authority to issue or modify child custody orders in your case.


Contact Our Scottsdale Arizona Child Custody Attorneys

Contact us today or call us at (480) 305-8300 to schedule your consultation with one of our Scottsdale Arizona Child Custody Attorneys regarding child custody issues, the divorce process or any other Arizona family law matter.