Pennsylvania Family Law and Divorce
Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C.

PA Child Custody: What is the UCCJEA?

This particular law seeks to make child custody procedures uniform across the United States. This is done through creating policies and procedures that apply across the board so that in the event that parents move or relocate with their child(ren), there are mechanisms in place for determining which state has child custody jurisdiction. Pennsylvania child custody laws include the UCCJEA and Pennsylvania judges can rely on these rules to answer jurisdictional questions in child custody cases.

What are some of the various provisions of the UCCJEA?

For one, the UCCJEA defines which state is the child's "home state" so that it is apparent which state has exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over the child custody litigation. Thi is also done to determine which state has initial child custody jurisdiction. In order for a state to have "home state jurisdiction," the child must have resided in that state with a parent for at least six months prior to the commencement of the proceeding (or since birth if they are younger than six months old).

If the child has not lived in one state for six consecutive months, then courts that have adopted the UCCJEA will then look to "significant connections." The parent and child must have significant connections with the state attempting to invoke jurisdiction, and courts will also consider where "substantial evidence" exists related to the child's care, protection, training, and personal relationships.

The UCCJEA also has other provisions with regard to modifying existing child custody orders and in determining how to handle emergency child custody jurisdiction.  The emergency child custody jurisdiction provisions exist so that if necessary, a court without initial child custody jurisdiction or continuing and exclusive jurisdiction under the UCCJEA can adjudicate a child custody case if the child is in danger and in need of immediate protection. This can be done through entering a temporary emergency order. In Pennsylvania, if the court finds that another jurisdiction is the proper jurisdiction and the situation is an emergency, then the PA court should communicate with the proper jurisdiction with regard to determining where to adjudicate the custody matter.

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