Parents in Arizona who are divorced from or were never married to the other parent of their child may wonder how child custody matters are handled when they live in different states. Across the country, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or UCCJEA, is used to determine which state's courts have jurisdiction over a particular custody issue. Previously, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act of 1968 was used to establish jurisdiction over custody matters. Forty-nine of 50 states have adopted the newer law although Massachusetts continues to debate whether the revisions should become state law.
The revised child custody legislation was designed to comply with other later legislative approaches to family law and to improve the clarity of its provisions. For example, the legislation includes mechanisms to arrange visitation schedules across state lines and to vary jurisdiction over a case when necessary. In addition, the law complies with the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act passed in 1980, which had several provisions contradicting and superseding the earlier 1967 law.
The UCCJEA mandates that one state be officially designated as the child's home, depending on certain specified criteria. A parent in a different state could seek temporary custody, however, in case of abuse and other emergencies. The law also helps to determine which state has priority in case proceedings have been filed in both parents' states. It also maintains that, in general, the original state retains jurisdiction for later custody matters that may emerge even after the original custody case has been resolved.
Parents who are separating or divorcing may find that child custody issues are some of the most emotionally draining aspects of the end of a marriage or relationship. A family law attorney may work with a parent to negotiate a fair settlement on child support, parenting time and other key issues.