Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is the law that deals with conflicts of what state or country should hear the custody matter. Conflicts arise when one parent lives in one jurisdiction and other lives elsewhere, or when one parent suddenly moves and files a ch ild custody case in another state or country. The first purpose of the law is to ensure that states all follow the same guidelines for deciding whether they should hear a child custody case.

Other benefits of the law are to avoid conflicting orders in different states, to promote cooperation between states to determine which state is more appropriate to make decisions affecting custody, to make sure that custody litigation takes place in the state where the child has the closest connection and where the more significant evidence regarding the child, to discourage continuing litigation over custody issues, to deter abductions or the removing of children in order to obtain favorable custody awards, to avoid the rehearing of custody decisions of other states, and to facilitate enforcement of custody orders of other states.

California may make an initial custody determination if:
1. California is the child's home state within six months before the action is commenced;
2. A court of the child's home state has declined to exercise jurisdiction because California is the more appropriate forum, i.e. the child and at least one parent have a significant connection with California and substantial evidence is available in California regarding the child's care, protection, training, and personal relationships;
3. All courts having jurisdiction have deferred to California; or
4. No court of any other state would have jurisdiction.

California may make temporary emergency orders if a child is present in California and has been abandoned or it is necessary to protect the child from mistreatment or abuse. The California court must immediately communicate with the court of another state if there are known proceedings in an effort to resolve the emergency, protect the parties' and child's safety and determine the duration for the temporary order.

Modification of Custody Determination
A California court that has made an initial custody determination has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction over the determination until one of the following occurs:
1. California determines that the child or the child and one parent do not have a significant connection with California and that substantial evidence is no longer available in California regarding the child's care, protection, training, and personal relationships; or
2. California or the court of another state determines that the child, the child's parents, and any person acting as a parent do not presently reside in California.
If a custody order from another state must be modified, the general rule regarding where the order should be modified depends on whether the child, children, or one parent still reside in the state where the original order was made.
Each state will enforce an order regarding custody from another state, so long as it has not been modified.
If a child has been wrongfully taken from another state, the court may decline to make any orders regarding the child. Instead the court will notify the other parent and the appropriate jurisdiction.

For help, Call David C. Winslow at 949-262-3434 or email directly at


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